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One in Four Suffer Physical Health Effects of Heartbreak 

07 February 2024

The physical health effects of heartbreak


New research from Vitality Health Insurance has revealed that almost a quarter (23%) of Brits have suffered physical health effects because of a broken heart.  

Taking the term ‘lovesick’ to a whole new level, 43% lost their appetite, whilst 22% felt a physical ache highlighting the importance of looking after your health and wellbeing after a breakup. Other symptoms of heartbreak included experiencing heart palpitations (17%), chest pain (16%), and problems with their digestive system (13%).  

The most common physical health effects felt as a result of a broken heart include: 

  1. Loss of appetite (43%) 
  2. Disrupted sleep routine causing tiredness/exhaustion (40%) 
  3. Restlessness (30%) 
  4. Physical aches (22%) 
  5. Nausea (21%) 
  6. Heart palpitations (17%) 
  7. Chest pain (16%) 
  8. Problems with digestive system (13%) 
  9. Trouble breathing (13%) 
  10. Dizziness (12%) 

Dr Katie Tryon, Director of Health and Strategy, at Vitality confirms it’s not just people’s imagination or the random association of heartbreak with physical ailments. Indeed, emotional heartache can often manifest into physical symptoms such as chest pain and heart palpitations due to a surge of stress hormones following an emotionally difficult event. Alongside the impact to a person's overall wellbeing, this shows heartbreak can also lead to significant impacts on physical health. As such Dr Tryon confirms it is vital people take the time to be mindful of their wellbeing in the same way they would any stressful situation. 

While a whopping 73% are aware of the inextricable link between their mental and physical health, a further 61% reported that their physical health took a toll when dealing with the emotional turmoil of a breakup. Examples of this taking effect include a lack of motivation to exercise (26%) and turning to fast food or comfort eating (17%). 

Despite the range of concerning symptoms, only 18% have taken a sick day off to deal with the aftermath of a relationship breakdown. This can be explained as 34% feel particularly uncomfortable discussing their relationship status in the workplace altogether.

When it comes to ways Brits attempt to move on after heartbreak, 39% turned to their closest family and friends for support, whilst 20% distracted themselves with a new hobby. A further 16% tried talking therapy to dissect their feelings and help wade through their emotional pain with someone who didn’t know their ex-partner. 

Dr Katie Tryon, Director of Health and Strategy, at Vitality health insurance expands on the physical impacts that manifest due to heartbreak: 

“It’s easy to think of heartbreak as only being an emotional pain, but there is a strong link between mental and physical health. 

“Alongside a demotivation to keep active and eat healthy, emotional stresses affect your levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and serotonin (happy hormone). By staying active, you can boost your dopamine and serotonin levels. 

“Ultimately, the breakdown of a relationship can be one of the most stressful life events you can experience, and as such you should look after your health in the same way you would any other high-stress situation. You may not be able to prevent a relationship from ending, but you can prevent it from seriously impacting your overall short and long-term health and wellbeing by taking care of your needs.” 


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