Experiences of becoming widowed in old age - a cross-countries study with qualitative interviews from Denmark and quantitative measures of association in a Swedish sample

Christina Blanner, Anja Elliott, Peter Hjorth, Jens Søndergaard, Cecilia Mattisson, Kjeld Andersen

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Abstract

Purpose: Becoming widowed is a stressful health-threatening event causing major life changes. We explored how widowed people experience becoming widowed and examined if these experiences are quantitatively associated with widowhood. Methods: A multi-methods study using an exploratory sequential mixed-methods approach including a qualitative descriptive study with widowed people from Denmark and a Swedish cohort study. Qualitative interviews (n = 9) were analysed using qualitative content analysis, describing experiences as explained by the widowed people. The quantitative association of the experiences was examined by identifying proxies for the qualitative experiences of widowhood in the cohort study and examining the occurrence in widowed people compared to married people (n = 1,095). Results: Six categories of experiences emerged: the circumstances around spousal death, mental health and well-being, physical health, social relations, activities and practicalities. The quantitative examination showed a significant association with widowhood regarding mental and physical health problems. Conclusion: The circumstances around spousal death and the time before spousal death, in general, were important to how participants felt being widowed. Being ill negatively affected mental health and well-being, partly because of the inability to participate in activities and social relations. This is important, as health problems are more common among widowed people than married people.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1871181
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being
Volume16
Issue number1
Number of pages16
ISSN1748-2623
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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