Volunteers needed for new study into effects of bereavement on the immune system

University of Birmingham researchers investigating the effects of bereavement on the immune system are looking for volunteers to help with a pioneering study.

Academics have previously found that the emotional stress of bereavement is associated with a drop in the efficiency of white blood cells, known as neutrophils, which combat infections such a pneumonia, a major cause of death in older adults. This study further explores the effect of recent bereavement on the immune system in young people (aged 18 – 45yrs) and older people (65+).

Behavioural medicine expert Dr Anna Phillips, of the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences, who is leading the study, is looking for participants who have lost a close friend or relative in the past two months who will be required to complete a couple of questionnaires and give a small blood sample. Volunteers will be paid reasonable travel expenses.

Dr Anna Phillips says: “Bereavement is a highly upsetting and stressful time and we believe there could be a significant physical impact as well as psychological. This new research will help us to analyse the impact of bereavement and other factors on individuals’ immune functioning.  This knowledge could impact upon patient care and medical practice.”

For more information, please contact Samantha Williams, Press Office, University of Birmingham, 0121 415 6029 or to volunteer, contact Dr Phillips Ms Vitlic direct on 0121 414 4398 / 0121 414 8740


Participant criteria

  • This study apllies to adults aged between 18-45 years or 65 years and older who have suffered bereavement within the past two months
  • Participants must have no current immune disorder (e.g. chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis etc.) or acute infection and should not be taking medication that will affect their immune system (e.g. immunosuppressants).
  • Participants must have no record of adverse reactions to blood sampling (i.e. fainting).