Psychological adjustment to sudden and anticipated spousal loss among older widowed persons

D. Carr, J. S. House, C. Wortman, Randolph Nesse, R. C. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

115 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives. This study examined if older adults' psychological adjustment to widowhood varies based on whether the death was sudden or anticipated and if these effects are mediated by death context characteristics (e.g., predeath caregiving, nursing home use, spouse's age at death, and couple's communication about the death). Methods. The effects of forewarning on multiple indicators of mental health and grief were examined in a sample of 210 widowed persons who participated in the Changing Lives of Older Couples (CLOC) study. The CLOC is a probability sample of 1,532 married individuals aged 65 and older for whom baseline information was collected in 1987-88, with widowed persons reinterviewed 6, 18, and 48 months after spousal loss. Results. Forewarning did not affect depression, anger, shock, or overall grief 6 or 18 months after the loss. Prolonged forewarning was associated with elevated anxiety both 6 and 18 months after the death. Sudden spousal death elevated survivors' intrusive thoughts at the 6-month follow-up only. Sudden death was associated with slightly higher levels of yearning among women but significantly lower yearning among men both 6 and 18 months after the loss. Discussion. The findings call into question the widespread belief that grief is more severe if death is sudden and suggest a more complex relationship between bereavement and circumstances of spousal death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume56
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Widowhood
Sudden Death
Grief
death
grief
Bereavement
Sampling Studies
Anger
Nursing Homes
Spouses
Survivors
Shock
Mental Health
Anxiety
Communication
Emotional Adjustment
Depression
human being
caregiving
nursing home

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Psychological adjustment to sudden and anticipated spousal loss among older widowed persons. / Carr, D.; House, J. S.; Wortman, C.; Nesse, Randolph; Kessler, R. C.

In: Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Vol. 56, No. 4, 2001.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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