We've seen it play out in movies such as The Notebook, but scientists say they have just established a firm link between the death of a partner and the risk of heart failure and stroke.

In a new study, Danish researchers have reported there is a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat - otherwise known as atrial fibrillation - for up to a year after a person's partner has died.

The risk seems to be greatest among the under-60s and when the death of the partner was least expected, the findings in the journal Open Heart indicate.

A growing body of evidence suggests that highly stressful life events boost the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but it is not clear whether this might also be true of atrial fibrillation.