Gender differences in the use of anti-infective medications before and after widowhood: a register-based study

Adriana Santacroce, Jonas W Wastesson, Andreas Höhn, Kaare Christensen, Anna Oksuzyan

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Background Recent findings suggest that bereavement due to spousal loss is associated with a decline in general immune functions, and thus to increased susceptibility to infections among widowed individuals. The present study aims to investigate whether spousal loss weakens immune defences more among men than among women using a 5% random sample of the total Danish population, and anti-infective medication use as a proxy for immune response. Methods We followed 6076 Danish individuals (67% women) aged =50 from 5 years before and up to 5 years after widowhood to examine changes in prescriptions of anti-infectives for systemic use. Results Women used more anti-infective drugs both before and after spousal loss (women: OR= 1.31; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.42). The age-related changes in the use of anti-infective medications in the period before widowhood were similar to that in the period after widowhood among both men and women. Also, agerelated changes in the use of anti-infective medications were similar in both genders. Conclusions The present study shows that individuals are more likely to use anti-infective medication after being widowed than before being widowed, but this change is likely to be related to increasing age and it is similar in both genders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Epidemiology & Community Health
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)526-531
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • age and cohort effects
  • gender differences
  • immune response
  • widowhood

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