Researchers at the University of Birmingham are looking for volunteers to take part in a study that will increase understanding of how bereavement affects health, particularly in older adults.

The long-term aim is to identify measures that can be taken to reduce the negative effects that bereavement can have on health, but in order to do this, researchers first need to understand how, and for how long a bereavement affects the immune system.

The team, from the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, are looking for people aged over 65 in the Birmingham area who have been bereaved in the last month, who have no current immune disorders and are not taking cholesterol-reducing drugs. Participants will need to come to the University and have a blood sample taken, then answer questionnaires about their lifestyle.

The blood sample is needed in order to measure the function of various immune cells in the blood, which are needed by the body to combat disease.

This study follows on from a research report by the same group last year, which was the first of its kind to study whether bereavement had an effect on the immune response to the flu vaccination, which gives a good indication of how well the body would fight off flu in real life.

Those that had suffered bereavement in the year prior to vaccination had a poorer response than those who had not suffered bereavement. The team also found that those who reported that they had happy marriages had a much higher level of antibodies in the blood than those reporting lower marital satisfaction.

Dr Anna Phillips from the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, who is lead investigator on the study, says: “We know that those aged over 65 are more at risk of the impact of flu, and our existing research shows that within that group, those that have been recently bereaved are more at risk.”

Anna continues: “We would now like to take this research further, to see whether interventions such as bereavement counselling or marriage counselling can improve the immune response in at risk groups, but in order to do this, we first need to gain an insight into how bereavement impacts on immunity.”

Those interested in taking part should call Anna Phillips on 0121 414 4398, or by email on


Notes to Editors:

The research team is looking for participants who are adults aged 65 and over, who have been bereaved in the past month, with no current immune disorders (e.g. cancer, diabetes), who are not taking statins for reducing cholesterol.

School of Sport and Exercise Sciences:

The University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences is one of the leading research departments in the United Kingdom, receiving a top 6* rating for its research by the Higher Education Funding Council of England in the recent Research Assessment Exercise.

The school’s research activities focus on Behavioural Medicine, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Physiology in Exercise, Exercise Biochemistry, Human Movement and Sport Psychology.

For further information on school activities, visit:

Further information:

Rachel Robson – Head of News Team, University of Birmingham

Tel: 0121 414 6681 / mob: 07789 921165 / email: