A new study suggests that losing a sibling in either childhood or early adulthood might increase the likelihood of early-onset heart disease.
Conducted by researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the study examined over two million individuals born in Denmark from 1978 to 2018.
The findings revealed that, on average, individuals were 11 years old when they suffered the loss of a sibling.
Over 17 years of follow-up data also indicated that such a loss in childhood or early adulthood correlated with a 17% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The analysis of this data was carried out from November 1, 2021, to January 10, 2022. The researchers also discovered that the risk was more pronounced in individuals who lost a twin or a younger sibling as opposed to those who lost an older sibling.
“The findings highlight the need for extra attention and support to the bereaved siblings to reduce CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk later in life,” the study authors noted.
According to David Schonfeld, the director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, past research focusing on the long-term effects of traumatic events in childhood has shown their influence on adult physical health.
“Although the initial research on adverse childhood experiences did not look specifically at the impact of the death of a close family member, we know that the death of a parent or sibling is one of the most stressful experiences for children and can contribute to short and long-term effects on the psychological functioning, emotional adjustment, and developmental trajectory of children– as well as their physical health,” said Schonfeld, who was not involved in the study.
Cardiologist at Delray Medical Center, Jonathan Kahan, agreed and underscored the lasting impacts of loss.