Bereavement and catecholamines

J Psychosom Res. 1986;30(4):489-96. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(86)90088-7.


Urinary catecholamine output was studied in 59 middle-aged and elderly persons who were either acutely bereaved (n = 39) or threatened with the loss of a spouse (n = 20). The study was done with the hypothesis that urinary catecholamine output would be elevated among the bereaved subjects both in comparison to norms in the literature for non-stressed controls and to the group of subjects who were threatened with a loss. It was also expected that individually high measures of psychological distress would be associated with high urinary catecholamines. Twenty-four hour urinary output of norepinephrine and epinephrine was observed to be higher than normal during acute bereavement but was not associated with depression scores. No differences were found between those who had experienced an actual loss two months earlier and those who were threatened with a loss. Expected relationships between indices of psychological distress and catecholamine output were not observed. Finally, an association was found between increasing age and higher levels of urinary norepinephrine and epinephrine output among acutely bereaved subjects, suggesting that the adaptation of the sympathetic-adrenal medullary system to stress among older persons is slower.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adrenal Medulla / physiopathology
  • Affective Symptoms / urine
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Depression / urine
  • Epinephrine / urine*
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / urine*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology


  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine