As the nation’s coronavirus death toll continues to climb, millions of loved ones are facing the emotional and physical consequences.
For every American who passes away from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, nine family members are affected, a new study finds.
But it’s not just the grief they will face, the researchers, from Pennsylvania State University, warn.
Grandparents, parents, spouses, siblings, children and grandchildren left behind may be so traumatized by the sudden death that their own physical and mental health may take a nosedive, which could have negative repercussions for years – potentially even leading to death.
A new study found that for every American who dies from coronavirus, about nine family members are left behind grieving their death
Grandparents were the most likely to have the highest number of mourning loved ones, followed by parents and siblings (above)
‘There’s a narrative out there that COVID-19 affects mostly older adults,’ co-author Dr Ashton Verdery, a professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University, told Kaiser Health News.
‘Our results highlight that these are not completely socially isolated people that no one cares about. They are integrally connected with their families, and their deaths will have a broad reach.’
For the study, published in the journal PNAS, the team created an indicator called the COVID-19 bereavement multiplier.
The indicators estimated the average number of individuals who will mourn the coronavirus death of a close relative, defined as a grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse, or child.
Researchers found that for every fatality caused by the virus, there are about nine surviving family members.
Grandparents were the most likely to leave behind the highest number of grieving relatives, followed by parents and then siblings.
Four times as many mourning individuals will be bereaved from the death of a grandparents than the death of a spouse or a child.
This is because, for example, a grandfather or grandmother could leave behind a spouse, two siblings, two children and four grandchildren.
As suggested by some models, if 190,000 Americans pass away from COVID-19 by August 31, approximately 1.7 million Americans will be mourning their deaths.
Black Americans were more likely to have grieving close family members with 9.18 for every coronavirus death compared to 8.86 for every white death.
The team notes that the overall burden of mourning is much more extended if other family members are considered.
‘The bereavement multiplier would be substantially higher if broader kin ties are considered, including in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even more removed family members,’ the authors wrote.
‘Efforts to quantify and analyze the loss of more distal relations will better clarify the full reach of COVID-19 bereavement.’
Aside from the grief family members, will face, the team warns the loved ones left behind are an elevated risk of physical and mental health decline.
They could be traumatized by the sudden loss of the sick individual and suffer serious declines in health.
Those who are especially younger, such as children and grandchildren, could lose important social and/or financial support from a loved one’s death, leading to lower educational achievements or unhealthy marriages.
‘Characterizing the scale of COVID-19–related kin death will also offer a new perspective of how the COVID-19 epidemic affects those at different ages,’ the authors wrote.