Parents who lose a child before its first birthday are up to four times more likely to die in the decade following the baby's death, say scientists.

Researchers at York and Stirling universities carried out the study into the impact of losing a child after similar findings were made in research into spousal death.

The research, published in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, found that although the risks of premature parental death lessened over time, mothers were still 1.2 times more likely to die 30 years after the death of a baby.

The study was not large enough to analyse if the deaths were attributed to suicide, or if other causes, such as stress, were the reason. However, the authors have called for further research into the area, saying that their findings are a "major concern".

The authors said: "The stress of bereavement may involve significant physiological effects - for example suppressing the immune system thereby increasing one's propensity to disease."

Posted by Robert Mair on 8.9.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com