Sibling Death: Kids Grieving Dead Siblings Increase Their Risk For Early Death, Study Says

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 27, 04:00 am

Nothing compares to the sadness and pain of losing a loved-one or family member. A new study reveals kids grieving a dead sibling increase their own risk for early death.

Dutch experts looked into five million health records of children from Denmark and Sweden who were born from 1973 to 2009. They determined 55,818 individuals experienced sibling death before they reached 18-years-old and averagely at 7-years-old.

They tracked most of the individuals for 37 years and learned 71 percent were at higher risk for dying early during the course of the study compared to those who did not lose a sibling in childhood. The experts published their findings in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The experts determined the conditions that increase the risk of early death among surviving siblings, especially in the first few years. If the dead sibling was close to the age of the surviving sibling and if the dead sibling was of the same sex as the surviving sibling, then their risks were likely higher.

Further, children who saw their brother or sister suffer through a disease increased their early death risk at 37 percent. Children whose brother or sister died due to external causes, such as an accident, increased their early death risk at 90 percent.

The long-term study on sibling death is the first to determine the state of the surviving sibling. The experts attribute its impact to sibling relationship because this "tends to be the longest and the most intimate in the family" as per Healio. The experts also point to psychological stress that never alleviated as a likely cause of early death in children who lost a sibling.

"The public should be aware of children's vulnerability after experiencing sibling loss, especially in the first year and for siblings of the same sex or close age," co-study author Dr. Yongfu Yu from Denmark's Aarhus University Hospital told Reuters. He stressed the importance of providing support for grieving children to "minimize potential adverse health effects on the bereaved individuals."

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