The long-term impact of bereavement upon spouse health: A 10-year follow-up

Michael P. Jones, Roger W. Bartrop, Lina Forcier, Ronald Penny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: This study is the first to examine the effect of bereavement of a first-degree family member on subsequent morbidity over a 10-year follow-up period. Methods: A sample of bereaved subjects (n = 72) were compared with a control group (n = 80) recruited in the same period with respect to morbidity experience during follow-up. Morbidity events were ascertained from the subject themselves, their health care providers and these sources were also compared. Results: Bereavement was associated with an elevated total burden of illness as well as with mental health and circulatory system categories diagnosed according to the International Classification of Diseases-Clinically Modified (ICD-9) classification system. The elevation ranged from approximately 20% for any illness to 60-100% among circulatory system disorders. Although in an earlier study there was a downregulation of T-cell function in the bereaved during the first 8 weeks, there was no evidence that the bereavement was associated with increased morbidity in the respiratory or immune system ICD-9 categories long-term. Conclusions: Past epidemiological research has indicated that bereavement of a close family member is associated with adverse health consequences of a generalised morbidity. Our study suggests an increase in mental health and circulatory system effects in particular. Further research is required to determine whether other systems are also affected by bereavement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-217
Number of pages6
JournalActa Neuropsychiatrica
Volume22
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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