Women take longer to get over the death of a close friend because they have tighter “socioemotional bonds” with them, according to new research. Scientists found women suffer from a major decline in health for up to four years after a bereavement.
They experience a sharper drop in vitality than men, and also suffer greater deterioration in mental health, researchers from the University of Stirling and Australian National University (ANU) found after looking at data from 26,515 individuals over a period of 14 years.
They also discovered men were more dissatisfied with their life and health in the first year following a death while women were more unhappy in the long-term.
“Our data may reflect hypotheses that females share tighter and had greater socioemotional bonds than their male counterparts,” researchers wrote in the paper published in ‘Plos One’.
Most research on grief looks at the bereavement people feel after the death of an immediate relative, often a spouse, whereas this study looked at a wider field.
Liz Forbat, associate professor at Stirling University, said: “When a partner, child or parent dies the bereaved person is likely to grieve and feel worse for some time afterwards. The impact of the death of a friend is not afforded the same sense of seriousness.
“There are pronounced declines in the health and wellbeing of people who’d had a friend die in the previous four years, yet employers, GPs and the community aren’t focused on providing support to bereaved friends.”
The study suggests that more services should be available to help people develop the necessary support networks after the death of a friend.
Forbat said: “The friend’s death is a form of disenfranchised grief — one not taken so seriously. Their grief might not be acknowledged and the impact trivialised. This study proves that the death of a friend matters as a universal human experience.”