Immense grief of losing a loved one means that many people die within three years of their husband or wife, scientists have found.
Researchers at St Andrews University have identified a "widowhood" effect which they claim does not just affect elderly couples, also occurs amongst those in their 30s and 40s.
AdvertisementThey found that 40 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men died within three years of their partner.
The study identified a range of causes including cancer, heart diseases, accidents and suicides.
"The key message is that it doesn't matter what causes of death you look at there is still a widowhood effect," the Daily Mail quoted Professor Paul Boyle, chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, who led the study, as saying.
"This is a clear demonstration, we would argue, that social effects, such as losing a partner, have an impact on life expectancy.
"We now have robust evidence that the widowhood effect does exist and that people who lose a partner deserve support because it can leave them in a vulnerable situation," Boyle added.
The researchers studied the records of more than 58,000 married couples dating back to 1991.
For some, the "widowhood" effect seemed to occur very quickly and 40 people died within just ten days of their loved one.
At least 12 died on the exact same day. They concluded that people were most likely to die within six months of their partner, but the widowhood effect could last ten years.
The study will be published next year in the journal Epidemiology.