Grief can hurt — in more ways than one

Stress and depression may lead to new health issues or intensify the symptoms of existing conditions.


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We tend to think of grieving as an emotional experience, and it is — fraught with intense sadness, profound loss, and psychological pain. But grief has a physical side that sets us up for a number of health risks. "Most of these side effects are the result of emotional distress responses," explains Dr. Maureen Malin, a geriatric psychiatrist with Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. Whether you're grieving the loss of a loved one, a job, a home, or a beloved pet, it's important to understand how the process puts your health in jeopardy.

Stress and grief

Grieving takes a toll on the body in the form of stress. "That affects the whole body and all organ systems, and especially the immune system," Dr. Malin says. Evidence suggests that immune cell function falls and inflammatory responses rise in people who are grieving. That may be why people often get sick more often and use more health care resources during this period.

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