Widowhood and mortality: a Danish nationwide register-based cohort study

C. Blanner*, A. Mejldal, A. M. Prina, P. Munk-Jørgensen, A. K. Ersbøll, K. Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

AIMS: Widowed people have increased mortality compared to married people of the same age. Although most widowed people are of older age, few studies include the oldest old. As life expectancy is increasing, knowledge of widowhood into older age is needed. This study aimed to examine mortality and widowhood in older age by comparing mortality in widowed and married people by sex, age, time since spousal loss and cause of death. METHODS: A Danish register-based matched cohort study of 10% of widowed persons ⩾65 years in the years 2000-2009. For each randomly drawn widowed person, five married persons were matched on sex and age. Mortality rate ratios (MRR) were calculated using Poisson regression, and stratified according to sex and 5-year age intervals. MRRs were furthermore calculated by time since spousal loss and by specific cause of death. RESULTS: The study included 82 130 persons contributing with 642 914.8 person-years. The overall MRR between widowed and married persons with up to 16 years of follow-up was 1.25 (95% CI 1.23-1.28). At age ⩾95 years for men, and ⩾90 years for women, no differences in mortality rates were seen between widowed and married persons. Mortality in widowed persons was increased for most specific causes of death, with the highest MRR from external causes (MRR 1.53 [1.35-1.74]) and endocrine diseases (MRR 1.51 [1.34-1.70]). CONCLUSIONS: Widowhood was associated with increased mortality in older age for both men and women until age ⩾95 and ⩾90 years, respectively. Increased mortality was observed for almost all causes of death.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere149
JournalEpidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
Volume29
Number of pages11
ISSN2045-7960
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3. Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Bereavement
  • elderly
  • geriatric psychiatry
  • survival analysis

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