View Full Version : Is it possible to die of heartbreak?
09-06-2001, 03:19 PM
I often hear people say stuff like "he died of a broken heart". Is that even possible to die from sadness alone? I always figured it meant either suicide or heart problems, but I'm not so sure? Anyone out there know?
09-06-2001, 03:43 PM
Well, studies have shown that it is possible to *live* longer in expectation of a future event. A study was done (and I read about this in Discover magazine years ago, so I apologize if I can't give specific details or cites) on elderly Jewish men and elderly Chinese women. In both societies, there is a traditional ceremony where the eldest family member (male in Judaism, women in Chinese society) has a major part in the ceremony. The studies found that the death rate markedly decreased in the few months before the ceremony, then had a *corresponding* increase in the few months after the ceremony.
What we infer from that is that there were several Jewish patriarchs and Chinese matriarchs clinging on to life just to be part of this ceremony one more time. Once the ceremony was over, the job was fulfilled, and whatever will was holding them to life slipped away- thus the corresponding increase in the death rate, thus evening it all out.
One could, then, suppose that there are elderly married men and women who cling on to life simply to spend more time with each other, and upon the death of one, the other loses this 'will' and passes away shortly thereafter- not of any *specific* disease, but of various elderly ailments that might have taken them away earlier had they not clung to each other so tenaciously.
Then, of course, one could also talk of depression and the various ailments that can come about with such- describing someone as dying of 'heartbreak' may cover cirrhosis and alcohol poisoning- yeah, they died of drinking, but they were drinking because of a broken heart.
09-06-2001, 04:07 PM
To elaborate on (or possibly obfuscate) what John Corrado has said, it is certainly possible for a person to die simply from having lost the will to live. Well, theoretically at least. I suppose it happens all the time; in nursing homes, in prisons, in psychiatric hospitals, etc. Naturally, the cause of death is going to be one ailment or another, but sais ailment probably just became more pronounced because of the loss of will to live. If you think about it, that's what killed Fantine in Les MisÚrables; she lost the will to live and died a short time later.
Yes, I realize Les MisÚrables is fiction.
My wife and I knew this couple in Cincinnati. He was very successful in real estate and she was a teacher. He wanted kids real bad and she was satisfied with the kids at school and in the neighborhood. Several times, when we were over at their house he would get me off to the side and talk about it. They would go to Florida for Christmas, because he said he could not stand to see other couples with their kids around the tree. I was a few years younger the he was, but when I was about 33 (making him in his early 40's), he checked into the hospital with something like the flu and within hours he had died. I know in my heart what caused his death.
09-07-2001, 01:48 AM
From my own experience.... Years ago my grandmother died, and my grandfather simply was devastated. They had been together for over 6 decades. He was in seemingly perfect health before her passing. Only 3 months or so after her funeral, he was in the hospital, and died a couple days later. His physician said that if he could, he would have put heartbreak as the cause of death. As it was, it was just put down as natural causes.
09-07-2001, 02:24 AM
My Mother (an ex-geriatric hospital nurse) tells me it is not unknown for "loss of will to live" to be used as a cause of death on a death certificate for an older person.
09-07-2001, 02:28 AM
In addition to the above comments about the effect of having a reason to live:
There's scads of evidence that stress and depression lower the effectiveness of the immune system. It would be reasonable enough to conclude that the loss of a loved one upon whom you depended deeply could lead to both stress and depression. In elderly people whose health is usually compromised for a range of other reasons anyway suppression of the immune system could rapidly lead to death. So from a purely medical perspective I'd say it's more than possible that people have died from the effects of a 'broken heart'.
09-07-2001, 02:29 AM
Is it possible to die of heartbreak?
I'm still here, aren't I?
09-07-2001, 05:06 AM
The better question would be:
Is it possible to die of boredom while sitting online?
It HAS to be.
I've had several out of body experiences, and they get darker ever time.
09-07-2001, 07:29 AM
I'm not convinced because depression is such a common malady and death is not usually associated with it. Even people with so-called manic depression live with their ups and downs. However, accounts of life in the Victorian era in Britain do sometimes describe how a lot of people died of "despair".[sic] Life was so hard then and the people were so poor and overworked that, apparently, they sometimes just laid down and died. If you think about it though, Asian people in modern day sweatshops or child slaves in India are not reported as doing the same. I am not really convinced that "heartbreak" can result in death or even that awful sadness can cause physical illness in a relatively short space of time. It must be easy for someone in that state to stop eating though.
09-07-2001, 07:43 AM
Heartbreak can result in ennui, of which Neville died (http://www.eden.rutgers.edu/~sevans/gashly/n.html).
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