Mortality after the Death of a Spouse: Rates and Causes of Death in a Large Finnish Cohort

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ObjectivesThis study examines excess mortality among Finnish persons after the death of a spouse, by sex, the subject's cause of death, duration of bereavement, and age.MethodsThe subjects were 1 580 000 married Finnish persons aged 35 through 84 years who were followed up from 1986 through 1991.ResultsExcess mortality among the bereaved was high from accidental, violent, and alcohol-related causes (50% to 150%), moderate for chronic ischemic heart disease and lung cancer (20% to 35%), and small for other causes (5% to 15%). Excess mortality was greater at short (< 6 months) rather than long durations of bereavement and among younger rather than older bereaved persons for most causes of death; it was also greater among men than women.ConclusionsThe results are consistent with the hypothesis that excess mortality after the death of a spouse is partly caused by stress. The loss of social support or the inability to cope with stress may explain why men suffer from bereavement more than do women. (Am J Public Health. 1996;86:1087-1093)

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