Statistics on grief and loss show that a large part of the U.S. population grieves each year. While some mourn the loss of close friends or relatives, others face the loss of jobs, pets and relationships. Grief is a complex and painful experience unique to each individual, but nearly everyone goes through it.

Grief Prevalence

It is unclear what the exact prevalence of grief is in the U.S. However, these facts and figures shed some light on this relatable experience.

  • Older adults experience grief at a higher rate than younger adults or children. Spousal loss is common in older adults as well as the death of friends, siblings and cousins. 
  • About 2.5 million people die in the United States annually, each leaving an average of five grieving people behind. 
  • It’s estimated that 1.5 million children (5% of children in the United States) have lost one or both parents by age 15.

Complicated Grief in Adults

When grief is overwhelming and powerful, it can seem to have no end. Grief this extensive is called complicated grief, which affects between 10% to 20% of grievers.

For many people, the most difficult time is the first several days or weeks. After that time, these individuals gradually return to their daily routine and normal activity. This is a common experience for adults grieving the death of a parent.

For an adult with complicated grief, emotions become overwhelming and difficulty with daily functioning goes on for much longer. These individuals need additional guidance and support to process their loss. 

Childhood Grief and Bereavement

Childhood grief is often a memorable experience, commonly marked by the death of a grandparent or older relative. Childhood grief statistics state that 1.5 million children live in a single-parent home because of the loss of one parent and nearly 2 million children under 18 have lost both parents.

The way grief in children is processed can be positively or negatively affected by others around them. Bereavement during childhood can also cause issues such as bedwetting, digestive problems and trouble sleeping. 

Causes of Grief

Grief is the process an individual goes through after losing a significant person or element from their life. While grief is usually associated with the loss of human life, that is not the only cause of grief. Any significant loss can be emotionally difficult and disruptive for an individual, and it can also cause complicated grief in some people.

There are a few common causes of grief, including:

  • Death of a loved one: Losing a person you are close to is the most commonly recognized cause of grief. Coping with the death of a loved one in the family is one of the most common human experiences. 
  • Suicide loss: When a person loses someone to suicide, grief can be more challenging and complicated to process.
  • Divorce: While divorce is not the same as a person’s death, it can cause both parties to grieve. Divorce represents a complex change that can impact many parts of life.
  • Loss of job: The loss of a job can be a devastating and life-changing event. Job loss grief reflects the lack of financial security and can affect personal identity.
  • Death of pet: For some people, the death of a pet can be as significant as the loss of a human life. This is especially true when grieving the loss of pets who are viewed as family members.

Rates of Grief and Co-Occurring Conditions

There are a few different effects of grief on overall health and daily function. The normal reactions of grief overlap several symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. Crying, low mood, disrupted sleep and loss of appetite are common during the early stages of grief. Anxiety and depression disorders show similar symptoms for several weeks at a time. 

According to an article from Psychiatric Times, 40% of grievers meet the criteria for major depression one month after their loss, and 24% still meet the criteria after two months. Because of these similarities, a bereaved person cannot be diagnosed with depression until two months have passed since their loss.

Additionally, some individuals may turn to substance use as a way to self-medicate and numb their symptoms. Therefore grief and substance use disorder often co-occur.

Cost of Grief in the Workplace

The true cost of grief in the workplace is often underestimated. Employees going through the grieving process need support and schedule flexibility. However, many workplaces do not address these needs openly or thoroughly.

Employees experiencing grief process higher levels of daily stress than normal. This can lead to poor decision making, substance misuse and increased risk of injury. Because of these issues, employers in the United States lost up to $75 billion annually, according to a 2003 study by the Grief Recovery Institute. 

Grief Research and Trends

Some recent grief research studies are transforming the way people understand grieving. Current trends in grief counseling involve using new technologies, but each person handles grief differently. Generational differences, social media and the severity of grief all affect how the experience is handled. For example:

  • Millennials have grown up with increased divorce rates, frequent job changes and constantly changing technology. For this reason, it’s possible millennials are able to adapt more easily to loss and manage grief more effectively.
  • Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets allow a grieving person to connect with others easily and quickly. This access makes it easier to find support and connection in a timely manner. 
  • Complicated grief is not yet an official mental health diagnosis. However, mental health professionals are learning more about this condition through research and experience. 

Statistics on Grief Treatment and Recovery

How long does grief last? While most people usually show symptoms for a month or two, some can develop complicated grief. When this occurs, treatment providers can offer additional support and guidance. A 2005 study showed that grief treatments that resembled trauma therapy seemed to promote an approximately 25% better response rate than typical interpersonal therapy.

If you or someone you care about is having a difficult time with a major loss, they may be going through a period of grief. Because people with grief may develop deeper mental health issues or turn to substance use, it’s important to reach out for help. Contact The Recovery Village today if you are experiencing grief and a co-occurring substance disorder. We can discuss treatment plans and find a solution that will work well with your situation.