Grief is a common, instinctive, natural reaction that occurs following the loss of a loved one. This human experience is universal and will affect most people during a lifetime and cause a range of emotional and physical distress that can feel overwhelming and intolerable. In late life especially, people are exposed to an increasing number of losses and often grieve multiple losses at the same time. Death of a spouse is thought to be the most common and difficult loss in older adults, with nearly one-third of those aged 65 and older being widowed. Bereavement has been associated with a deterioration in mental health and physical health and thus clinicians need to be aware of the risk factors as well as the principles for treatment. This chapter explores grief in older adults including the impact grief has on an individual, the factors of “normal” grief and bereavement, complicated grief, mental health consequences of bereavement, and evidence-based practices for treatment.
Widowhood researchers have been increasingly interested in the construct of resilience and identifying factors which contribute to adaptive responses to conjugal loss. Available measures of general resilience were validated on nonwidowed samples and broadly lack face validity for use with widowed people. This article reports the development and validation of a resilience scale specific to widowhood, the Widowhood Resilience Scale. Initially, qualitative responses from 744 widowed people were analyzed and cross-referenced with existing literature on resilience to develop 49 items. The 49 items were tested on a sample of 1,188 widowed people, resulting in a 6-factor, 25-item scale.
To add to the dialogue regarding the long-term recovery and wellbeing of war and tsunami-affected women in Sri Lanka, we utilised the Conservation of Resources Theory (COR, Hobfoll, 2009) to inform an investigation of direct and indirect effects. The study was specifically designed to assess how traumatic exposure may represent a form of loss which may associate with related losses in the form of external and internal stigma which may then associate with poor mental health outcomes. The data for this study were collected in 2016 from a sample of 379 widowed women in Eastern Sri Lanka; participant spouses died in the civil war, in the tsunami, or from health or other problems. Our analyses yielded a model suggesting associations between remembered trauma event exposure from war and disaster, external stigma, internalised stigma and mental health symptom distress. Results further yielded direct and indirect effects suggesting that trauma may represent a form of loss, and potentially lead to distress through the weight and challenges of stigma.
Objectives: In 2015 we identified three profiles of adaptation following spousal bereavement: Vulnerables; Copers and Resilients (Spahni, Morselli, Perrig-Chiello, & Bennett, 2015 ). However, adaptation to spousal bereavement is a dynamic process. Thus, we examine the trajectories of the same participants longitudinally over two years. We identify the stability and change in profiles of adaptation to widowhood; probability of stability and change; factors that influence trajectories in profile membership.
Methods: Data stem from a longitudinal questionnaire study of 309 older widowed people. The questionnaire included five measures of well-being, serving as the dependent variables of this analysis, and measures of personal resources and contextual factors, including social support, marital happiness, psychological resilience, and demography. Data was analysed using latent transition analysis of the variables loneliness, hopelessness, depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, and subjective health.
Results: The analysis replicated the three Wave 1 profiles as the best theoretical fit: Vulnerables; Copers; and Resilients. Stability was most common, but some participants moved to more or less adaptive profiles, the former being more frequent. Younger age, longer time since widowhood, new life perspectives facilitated adaptation. Those transitioning to less adaptive profiles were more likely to be women and older. Discussion: The path to adaptation was not linear. Many of the explanatory variables contributed both to positive and negative adaptation. These include previous caring experience, education, psychological resilience and personal strength. This suggests these explanatory variables do not act in isolation but are likely to interact with each other, and with other, yet not measured, factors.
OBJECTIVES: Given the limited evidence regarding the longitudinal impact of widowhood on cognitive function in later life, the present study aimed to investigate the longitudinal effect of widowhood status on cognitive change among Korean older adults.
METHODS: The study sample was drawn from a nationally representative data set, the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing (KLoSA); it consisted of 3,660 Korean adults aged 60 and over who were married at baseline. Our dependent variable, cognitive function, was measured by the Korean version of the Mini-Mental State Examination (K-MMSE). Widowhood status was measured with the combination of widowhood status and duration. Growth curve models were constructed using five waves of the KLoSA (2006-2014) to examine the longitudinal trajectories of cognitive changes.
RESULTS: In the unadjusted model, widowed older adults had significantly lower cognitive function than their nonwidowed counterparts regardless of widowhood duration. Adjusting for covariates, results from the growth curve models showed that widowed older adults with widowhood duration 4 to 6 years had a significantly steeper decline in cognitive function than nonwidowed older adults (P < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that widowhood is detrimental for late-life cognitive function. Further research is required to understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Policy and practice implications are discussed according to the cultural context.
This study investigated (a) whether significant health changes occur before imminent widowhood and (b) the effects of widowhood on the physical and psychological health of men and women = 50 years old. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine a matched-pair sample of the Taiwanese Elderly. We found that for men, the major effect of widowhood was on psychological health, but that for women, the major effect was on physical health. Psychological health was significantly worse for widowed than for non-widowed women, but not for men. The difference in psychological health between widowed and non-widowed women, however, changed before widowhood.
OBJECTIVES: Incident depression, occurring after an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) in never depressed patients, exerts a negative effect on the cardiac prognosis. Nonetheless only a few studies have evaluated the risk factor for incident depression and, particularly, no study have investigated the role of personality disorders. Therefore, the aim of this study is to verify if personality disorders represent a risk for incident depression in patients at their first ACS.
METHOD: The study sample was selected among never depressed patients who were consecutively admitted to the Coronary Intensive Care Unit, from January 2009 to March 2012, for the first ACS. The study sample included 262 patients. The presence of depressive disorder was assessed with the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV criteria), whereas its severity was evaluated with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Evaluations were collected at baseline and at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12 and 24 months of follow-up. Moreover, at baseline personality disorders were investigated with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II disorders.
RESULTS: Out of 262 subjects, a depressive disorder was diagnosed in 56 patients (21%). At baseline risk factors for incident depression were being widowed, having a distress reaction and narcissistic personality traits.
CONCLUSION: Clinicians should keep in mind these characteristics when facing patients at their first ACS, given the detrimental effect of depression on cardiac prognosis. A psychological support should prevent the onset of incident depression in these patients.
Childhood maltreatment dysregulates an individual’s physiological response to stress, increasing reactivity to stressors across the lifespan. Given the prevalence and impact of bereavement, we examined whether the association between childhood maltreatment and depression was exacerbated by spousal bereavement. We identified an interaction between childhood maltreatment and bereavement using linear regression analysis (B = 0.79, p < .001). A simple slopes test indicated a positive association between childhood maltreatment and depressive symptoms among those who were bereaved (B = 0.86, p < .001), but such association did not emerge among those who were not bereaved (B = 0.06, p = .60).
Aim: To examine factors that influence the health of older widows and widowers. The review question was: What is the evidence of the relationship between widowhood and health in older adults?
Design: Systematic review.
Data sources: Academic Search Elite, CINAHL, Medline (Ovid) and PubMed were searched for articles published between January 2013-December 2017.
Review methods: A systematic review of quantitative research with a qualitative thematic analysis.
Results: The selection process resulted in 12 studies. One of the themes that emerged was: emotional challenges related to experiences of bereavement, depression and anxiety, which was based on the sub-theme social support as the main strategy for coping with emotional pain and suffering. The second theme was: struggling with poor physical health. The findings indicate that healthcare professionals need knowledge and skills to deal with the health consequences of widowhood in old age. Building community teams can prevent emotional and physical health problems, as well as reduce mortality.
Increased mortality after spousal bereavement has been observed in many populations. Few studies have investigated the widowhood effect in a traditional culture where the economy is underdeveloped. The reasons for the widowhood effect and its gender dynamic are not well understood. In this study, we assessed whether the widowhood-associated excess mortality exists and differs by gender and living arrangement in rural China. We used a six-wave panel of data derived from rural people over 60 years old in the Chaohu region of China. Cox regression analyses suggest that there was a positive effect of spousal loss on mortality for older rural Chinese and this effect was gender different. Our findings also suggest that living with adult children after spousal loss played a protective role in reducing the risk of older men's death, though it tended to increase older men's mortality risk in general.
OBJECTIVES: This study aims to identify heterogeneous depressive symptom trajectories among the widowed elderly in China, to explore predictive variables of latent class membership, and to detect between-classes differences in life satisfaction across time.
METHOD: Data of 198 individuals widowed between 2011 and 2013 were drawn from The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), a nationally representative survey. Latent class growth analysis was employed to identify depressive symptom trajectories across 2011, 2013, and 2015, and a three-step auxiliary approach was applied to detect predictive variables of latent class membership. Mixed Analysis of Variances was followed to make between-class comparisons on life satisfaction across time.
RESULTS: Four grieving trajectories were identified: resilient (54.6%), chronic grief (23.7%), depressed-improved (11.6%), and chronic depression (10.1%). Older age, living exclusively with spouse before widowhood, and agricultural Hukou were significant predictors of depressed-improved, chronic grief, and chronic depression patterns, respectively. Life satisfaction in all groups except for the resilient one remained stable across time, and that of the chronic depression group was significantly lower than those of all the remaining groups.
CONCLUSION: Consistent depressive symptom trajectories during late-life widowhood exist across nations while the specific culture, values, and resources in the Chinese context may have contributed to a particularly high proportion of the chronic grief trajectory. More efforts should be made to identify patterns with predictors before support are provided, and interventions need to be tailored to target specific needs in each subgroup of the elderly during their transitions to widowhood.
PURPOSE: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the association of the prevalence of depression and time since spousal loss in widowed people.
METHODS: The databases MEDLINE, Embase and PsycInfo were searched (May 2017) for papers reporting on time since spousal loss in widowed people and the prevalence of common mental disorders. A systematic review was conducted according to MOOSE guidelines. Random effects meta-analyses of the prevalence of depression were conducted by intervals of time since spousal loss.
RESULTS: The literature search identified 12,982 studies of which 22 were eligible for inclusion in the systematic review. Of these, 14 were furthermore eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The summary estimates found in the meta-analysis for the prevalence of depression in the intervals of time since spousal loss were: = 1 month: 38.2% (21.9–55.8%); > 1 month to 3 months: 25.0% (17.3–33.5%); > 3 months to 6 months: 23.1% (18.0–28.7%); > 6 months to 12 months: 19.4% (15.2–24.0%); > 12 months to 18 months: 11.1% (5.3–18.7%); > 18 months to 24 months: 15.2% (12.3–18.2%); > 24 months to 60 months: 10.5% (4.3–18.5%).
CONCLUSION: Widowhood is associated with a high prevalence of depression and the study identifies a population group needing special attention in daily clinical practice. The prevalence is highest in the first month of widowhood, however, continues to be high at least 5 years into widowhood.
BACKGROUND: Widowed people have a high risk of common mental disorders, however no summary estimates of the prevalences exist. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the prevalence of common mental disorders in widowed people in the community.
METHODS: MEDLINE, Embase and PsycInfo were searched for papers reporting on prevalence of common mental disorders and widowhood. Eligible studies were included in random effects meta-analyses of the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders. Subgroup analyses were performed on method of assessment of depression and age and sex.
RESULTS: The literature search identified 13,781 titles of which 42 were eligible for meta-analysis. The pooled prevalence of depression in studies using a screening scale was 40.6% (33.6%–47.6%) (n = 30). For studies using full diagnostic criteria the pooled prevalence of depression was 19.2% (13.4%–25.0%) (n = 12). Subgroup analyses of age (= or < 65) and sex did not show any differences regarding depression. Five studies reported the prevalence of anxiety disorders. The pooled prevalence estimate was 26.9% (8.1%–45.7%).
LIMITATIONS: The prevalence estimates in this study are summary estimates of prevalences from existing literature. Although the reporting bias assessment showed no evidence, there could be some reporting bias, as studies might only present results if there is a high prevalence.
CONCLUSIONS: Widowed people have a high prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders. The high prevalence of depression was independent of age and sex. The study identifies a population group at high risk needing special attention in clinical practice.
Using six waves of longitudinal data (2001–2015) collected in Anhui, China (N = 2,131) and generalized estimating equations (GEE) models, this study fulfilled several objectives. First, the study compared the widowed to the married to examine if the transition to and duration of widowhood contributes to changes in depression. Second, the study examined if the bereavement-depression relationship is a process that precedes widowhood or is an abrupt change following the death of a spouse. Third, the study examined if social resources influence the bereavement-depression relationship. The study found that there is pre-widowhood effect on depression and that the widowhood event also contributes to increases in depression. Levels of post-widowhood depressive symptoms peak during the first six months bereavement and taper off within 25 months. Controlling for social support, contact with children, and living arrangements does not change the bereavement-depression relationship. The findings support Attachment Theory, which suggests that the loss of a spouse leads to emotional isolation that cannot be overcome with kin-based social support and social integration.
I examine: whether specific emotion-focused coping and help-seeking strategies adopted by older widow(er)s 6 months postloss affect depressive, anger, and yearning symptoms 1 year later; whether these effects are accounted for by psychosocial factors which guide the selection of coping strategies; and the extent to which patterns differ by gender. I estimate nested multivariate OLS regression models using data from the Changing Lives of Older Couples, a prospective multiwave survey of spousal bereavement (N = 164). Widows are more likely to use positive reframing, active distraction, help-seeking, and turning to God for strength, whereas widowers tend to use avoidant strategies, and are more likely to seek connection with their late spouse. Avoidant strategies like trying to forget and dulling the pain with alcohol increase depressive and anger symptoms; substance use is particularly consequential for men’s anger symptoms. Positive reframing increases depressive symptoms yet mitigates against anger. Seeking comfort from God also protects against anger. Seeking help from a doctor increases anger and depressive symptoms in baseline models, although effects are accounted for by selection. Maladaptive coping strategies are linked with anger, whereas depression and yearning are relatively immune to coping strategies, reflecting the relatively short-lived time course of these two symptoms. The results carry implications for bereavement theories and mental health interventions targeting older widow(er)s. Older widowers who cope by turning to unhealthy behaviors are especially prone to anger, which has documented physical health effects and may alienate potential sources of social support.
There is growing evidence from Western countries that widowhood may affect cognitive health in later life. However, little is known about whether widowhood is associated with cognitive health in Eastern Asian countries such as China and what factors may explain the association between widowhood and cognitive health. We add to this line of research by investigating the effect of widowhood on 2-year change in cognitive function among Chinese adults ages 55 and older from 2011 to 2013, using data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Cognitive function was measured by episodic memory and mental intactness (i.e., attention and time orientation). Our results showed that Chinese older adults who were continually widowed at both waves had significantly lower episodic memory scores at Wave 2 than their continually married counterparts, controlling for episodic memory at Wave 1, age, gender, education, and other sociodemographic variables. This suggests that the continually widowed experienced greater decline in episodic memory than the continually married over the 2-year period. After further controlling for economic resources, health, and social engagement, the difference in memory decline between the continually widowed and the continually married barely changed. The effect of widowhood on memory decline was similar for men and women. However, the continually widowed were not significantly different from the continually married in the decline of mental intactness. In addition, newly widowed adults were not significantly different from the continually married in the change of episodic memory and mental intactness. We conclude that staying widowed for 2 years or more may be an independent risk factor for episodic memory decline in China. More research is needed to investigate the mediating and moderating mechanisms underlying the association between widowhood and memory decline.
BACKGROUND: Losing one's spouse is one of the most stressful life events in old age, yet research on positive consequences of overcoming critical life events describes experiences of personal growth for survivors.
OBJECTIVE: Because prior studies conceptualized personal growth as a stable accomplishment of an individual, our study challenges this assumption by examining trajectories of personal growth and its links to two aspects of social support. We assume that personal growth is boosted by heightened levels of loss-related social support seeking during early years of widowhood. However, toward the later stages in the bereavement process, we expect personal growth to be fostered by perceived social embeddedness.
DATA AND METHOD: Data stem from a survey on relationships in later life conducted in 2012, 2014, and 2016 in Switzerland. The final analytical sample consisted of 508 individuals aged 50+ years, who were on average 73 years old and widowed for about 3 years at baseline. Longitudinal explorative factor analyses yielded a 3-factorial solution for personal growth. Random-effects group-specific growth curves were used to examine the trajectories of personal growth and its subdimensions, by different levels of loss-related social support seeking and embeddedness in a supportive network, over the first 8 years of widowhood. Our analyses included time-invariant and time-varying covariates.
RESULTS: On average, our findings point to a stable trajectory of personal growth after having become widowed in later life. Group-specific analyses, however, showed different courses in the trajectories for specific subdimensions of personal growth - particularly for spiritual change and appreciation of life. Average marginal effects also yielded group differences by loss-related support seeking in the level of personal growth over time, which highlight the importance of social support seeking, rather than social embeddedness, at all stages of the bereavement process.
CONCLUSION: Findings underline the importance of a longitudinal and linked-lives perspective on personal growth and point to different pathways regarding its various subdimensions. Future research should further examine the validity of personal growth scales for other populations and consider the possibility to experience personal growth already during the anticipation of a traumatic event (e.g., in the case of long-term caretaking).
Ce dossier comprend les articles suivants : Pourquoi parler du veuvage ? Quel enjeu de société ? ; le travail de deuil ; veuvage : idées reçues en matière de droit et de non droit ; l'importance de la parole ; gros plan sur le veuvage des hommes.
This study examined how financial strain, worry about having no care-giver and social engagement modify the association between widowhood and depressive symptoms among older adults in China. Using national representative data from older adults in China in 2006, we ran structural equation models and ordinary least square regressions to investigate the mediating and moderating effects of financial strain, worry about having no care-giver and social engagement on the association between widowhood and depressive symptoms. All three variables significantly mediated the association between widowhood and depressive symptoms. Compared to their married counterparts, widowed older adults showed more worry about having no care-giver, increased financial strain and lower social engagement, which were significantly associated with depressive symptoms. Higher level of worry about having no care-giver and lower social engagement significantly exacerbated the adverse effects of widowhood on depressive symptoms in the moderation analyses. Our finding of mediating effects suggests that widowhood is negatively related to psychological wellbeing via financial strain, social engagement and care resources. The results regarding moderating effects suggest that alleviating worry about having no care-giver and increasing social engagement may buffer the deleterious effect of widowhood on psychological wellbeing in later life.