The death of a close friend can impact the social, psychological and physical well being of a person for several years, says a research report.

The study titled “Death of a close friend: Short and long-term impacts on physical, psychological and social well-being” focuses on the short- and long-term effect of bereavement on a person’s life.

According to the research work, the demise of a close friend can affect a person’s mental and physical health for over four years. Researchers from Stirling University and Australian National University have also stated that women struggle more than men from the grief.

“Bereaved females experienced a sharper fall in vitality, suffered greater deterioration in mental health, impaired emotional and social functioning than the male counterparts up to four years after the death,” said the researchers.

For the study, the researchers gathered information about 26,515 people in Australia for a period of 14 years.  While analysing the data, they found that people experienced “negative and enduring consequences” immediately after the death of a close friend.

Additionally, the bereaved person also experienced poorer social functioning and mental health following the death of a close friend. Over a period of four years, they even struggled with “physical and psychological well being”.

The study was carried out by Liz Forbat, an associate professor from Stirling University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, in association with professors Katrina Anderson and Wai-Man Liu from Australian National University.

During the study, the researchers found that socially less active people are mostly affected by “deterioration in physical and psychological health." According to them, the prime reason for severe bereavement outcome is “lack of social connectedness”.

Forbat, the lead researcher, said that society does not really provide support to bereaved friends. “We all know that when a partner, child or parent dies, that the bereaved person is likely to grieve and feel worse for some time afterwards. [However] the impact of the death of a friend, which most of us will experience, is not afforded the same sense of seriousness,” the academics said.

“The death of a friend is a form of disenfranchised grief – one not taken so seriously or afforded such significance. This means their grief might not be openly acknowledged or expressed, and the impact trivialised,” Forbat added.

The researchers concluded the study by suggesting several special services for bereaved friends to enhance their physical and psychological well being.

“Recognizing bereaved friends as a group experiencing adverse outcomes can be used internationally to prompt health and psychological services to assist this specific group, noting that there may be substantial longevity to the negative sequelae of the death of a friend. Facilitating bereaved people’s support networks may be a fruitful approach to minimizing these negative outcomes,” they said.