Summary: The state of having lost a marital partner by death.

Top Publications

  1. Nagata C, Takatsuka N, Shimizu H. The impact of changes in marital status on the mortality of elderly Japanese. Ann Epidemiol. 2003;13:218-22 pubmed
    ..b>Widowhood was not significantly associated with mortality in men...
  2. Luginaah I, Elkins D, Maticka Tyndale E, Landry T, Mathui M. Challenges of a pandemic: HIV/AIDS-related problems affecting Kenyan widows. Soc Sci Med. 2005;60:1219-28 pubmed
    ..The widows employ various strategies to resist being inherited. Widows in the current epidemic navigate issues of sexuality in various ways, such as insisting their partners use condoms or permanently abstaining from sexual intercourse. ..
  3. Williams K. The transition to widowhood and the social regulation of health: consequences for health and health risk behavior. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2004;59:S343-9 pubmed
    This study estimates the effects of the transition to widowhood on changes in the social regulation of health and examines the consequences of this association for health and health risk behavior following spousal death...
  4. Stroebe M, Stroebe W, Abakoumkin G. The broken heart: suicidal ideation in bereavement. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162:2178-80 pubmed
    ..Bereaved persons are at excess risk of suicidal ideation compared to nonbereaved people. Heightened suicidal ideation in bereavement is associated with extreme emotional loneliness and severe depressive symptoms. ..
  5. van den Brink C, Tijhuis M, Van den Bos G, Giampaoli S, Kivinen P, Nissinen A, et al. Effect of widowhood on disability onset in elderly men from three European countries. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004;52:353-8 pubmed
    To investigate in different countries the effects of becoming widowed, duration of widowhood, and household composition of widowed men on disability onset in different disability domains...
  6. Michael S, Crowther M, Schmid B, Allen R. Widowhood and spirituality: coping responses to bereavement. J Women Aging. 2003;15:145-65; discussion 185-7 pubmed
    ..Because older women are three times more likely than their male counterparts to be widowed, widowhood has been labeled a primarily female phenomenon...
  7. Iwashyna T, Christakis N. Marriage, widowhood, and health-care use. Soc Sci Med. 2003;57:2137-47 pubmed
    ..We suggest that these patterns are most consistent with spouses exerting their benefits by functioning as higher-order decision-makers than as home health assistants. ..
  8. Jin L, Chrisatakis N. Investigating the mechanism of marital mortality reduction: the transition to widowhood and quality of health care. Demography. 2009;46:605-25 pubmed
    ..In this article, we examine the quality of health care as a possible link between widowhood and mortality using a unique data set of 475,313 elderly couples who were followed up for up to nine years...
  9. Schaal S, Elbert T, Neuner F. Prolonged grief disorder and depression in widows due to the Rwandan genocide. Omega (Westport). 2009;59:203-19 pubmed
    ..The two syndromes were strongly associated. No discriminant validity was found between the two constructs suggesting that PGD may rather be an appearance of depression than a separate nosological entity. ..

More Information


  1. Luoma J, Pearson J. Suicide and marital status in the United States, 1991-1996: is widowhood a risk factor?. Am J Public Health. 2002;92:1518-22 pubmed
    ..marital status is associated with suicide rates among various age, sex, and racial groups, in particular with widowhood among young adults of both sexes...
  2. Utz R, Carr D, Nesse R, Wortman C. The effect of widowhood on older adults' social participation: an evaluation of activity, disengagement, and continuity theories. Gerontologist. 2002;42:522-33 pubmed
    This study evaluated how levels of social participation change as a result of late-life widowhood. Social participation is a multidimensional construct incorporating both formal (e.g...
  3. Gregson S, Mason P, Garnett G, Zhuwau T, Nyamukapa C, Anderson R, et al. A rural HIV epidemic in Zimbabwe? Findings from a population-based survey. Int J STD AIDS. 2001;12:189-96 pubmed
    ..Local programmes promoting safer sexual behaviour and fast and effective STD treatment among young women, divorcees and working men could reduce the extensive HIV transmission in rural communities. ..
  4. Moon J, Kondo N, Glymour M, Subramanian S. Widowhood and mortality: a meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2011;6:e23465 pubmed publisher
    While the "widowhood effect" is well known, there is substantial heterogeneity in the magnitude of effects reported in different studies...
  5. Feldman S, Byles J, Beaumont R. 'Is anybody listening?' The experiences of widowhood for older Australian women. J Women Aging. 2000;12:155-76 pubmed
    ..The aims of this part of the study are to examine the short- and long-term effects of widowhood on the health and wellbeing of older women and to explore the process of change they experience after the death ..
  6. Morina N, Emmelkamp P. Mental health outcomes of widowed and married mothers after war. Br J Psychiatry. 2012;200:158-9 pubmed publisher
    ..9% and 22.9% in the married samples. War-related widowhood combined with lone motherhood constitutes a significant factor for elevated psychopathology.
  7. Ambasa Shisanya C. Widowhood in the era of HIV/AIDS: a case study of Slaya District, Kenya. SAHARA J. 2007;4:606-15 pubmed
    ..This paper provides insights into reasons for continuity of widowhood rites in Siaya District. Twelve focus group discussions and 20 in-depth interviews were conducted...
  8. Smith K, Zick C. Risk of mortality following widowhood: age and sex differences by mode of death. Soc Biol. 1996;43:59-71 pubmed
    ..Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find the mortality risk differs by gender, age, and type of widowhood. For nonelderly (< 65) widowers, there is an elevated risk when their wives died suddenly...
  9. Bennett K, Smith P, Hughes G. Coping, depressive feelings and gender differences in late life widowhood. Aging Ment Health. 2005;9:348-53 pubmed
    ..Participants were interviewed about their affective experiences of widowhood and completed two depression questionnaire assessments, the Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression Scale (SAD) and ..
  10. Valdimarsdottir U, Helgason A, Fürst C, Adolfsson J, Steineck G. Awareness of husband's impending death from cancer and long-term anxiety in widowhood: a nationwide follow-up. Palliat Med. 2004;18:432-43 pubmed
    ..A short awareness time may result in an additional and avoidable psychological trauma. ..
  11. Heuveline P. Impact of the HIV epidemic on population and household structure: the dynamics and evidence to date. AIDS. 2004;18 Suppl 2:S45-53 pubmed
  12. Zisook S, Chentsova Dutton Y, Shuchter S. PTSD following bereavement. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 1998;10:157-63 pubmed
    ..The results suggested that PTSD may occur after bereavement, and, by extension, other stressors not recognized by official diagnostic systems. The "A" criterion needs further examination. ..
  13. Stimpson J, Kuo Y, Ray L, Raji M, Peek M. Risk of mortality related to widowhood in older Mexican Americans. Ann Epidemiol. 2007;17:313-9 pubmed
    ..Risk of death related to incidence of widowhood was estimated by using proportional hazard regression and adjusted for age, education, US nativity, financial ..
  14. DiGiacomo M, Lewis J, Nolan M, Phillips J, Davidson P. Transitioning from caregiving to widowhood. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2013;46:817-25 pubmed publisher
    ..of spousal caregiving at the end of life and the ways in which this experience impacts on the transition to widowhood. Longitudinal, in-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted with older women three times over a one-year ..
  15. Mineau G, Smith K, Bean L. Historical trends of survival among widows and widowers. Soc Sci Med. 2002;54:245-54 pubmed
  16. Bond M, Clark M, Davies S. The quality of life of spouse dementia caregivers: changes associated with yielding to formal care and widowhood. Soc Sci Med. 2003;57:2385-95 pubmed
    ..Positive changes were particularly evident in psychological well-being and activity participation. These findings were discussed in terms of their relevance for a life transitions approach to the relinquishment of caregiving. ..
  17. Alter G, Dribe M, van Poppel F. Widowhood, family size, and post-reproductive mortality: a comparative analysis of three populations in nineteenth-century Europe. Demography. 2007;44:785-806 pubmed
    ..Empirical studies have produced inconsistent and contradictory results. Our focus is on the experience of widowhood, which has been ignored in previous studies...
  18. Bradbeer M, Helme R, Yong H, Kendig H, Gibson S. Widowhood and other demographic associations of pain in independent older people. Clin J Pain. 2003;19:247-54 pubmed
    To determine if psychosocial factors, as suggested by the demographic variables of widowhood and living alone, are associated with pain, particularly severe pain, in a representative sample of independent older people...
  19. Boyle P, Feng Z, Raab G. Does widowhood increase mortality risk?: testing for selection effects by comparing causes of spousal death. Epidemiology. 2011;22:1-5 pubmed publisher
    We consider whether widowhood increases mortality risk. Although commonly observed, this "widowhood effect" could be due to selection effects, as married couples share various characteristics related to the risk of death...
  20. Tomassini C, Rosina A, Billari F, Skytthe A, Christensen K. The effect of losing the twin and losing the partner on mortality. Twin Res. 2002;5:210-7 pubmed
    ..The latter confirms the influence of genetic factors on survival, while the mortality trajectory with a peak in the second year after the death of the co-twin is consistent with the existence of a twin bereavement effect. ..
  21. Shahar D, Schultz R, Shahar A, Wing R. The effect of widowhood on weight change, dietary intake, and eating behavior in the elderly population. J Aging Health. 2001;13:189-99 pubmed
    To assess the effect of recent widowhood on weight, dietary intake, and habits. Participants included 58 recently widowed elderly subjects and 58 married subjects who were matched on age, sex, and race...
  22. Mabumba E, Mugyenyi P, Batwala V, Mulogo E, Mirembe J, Khan F, et al. Widow inheritance and HIV/AIDS in rural Uganda. Trop Doct. 2007;37:229-31 pubmed
    ..Voluntary counselling and testing is needed for the widows and their inheritors; formal dowry should be removed from marriage and widow inheritance stripped of its sexual component. ..
  23. Choi K, Vasunilashorn S. Widowhood, age heterogamy, and health: the role of selection, marital quality, and health behaviors. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014;69:123-34 pubmed publisher
    Although the impact of widowhood on the surviving spouse's health has been widely documented, there is little empirical research examining whether certain spousal choice decisions and marital sorting patterns predispose individuals to be ..
  24. Moller J, Bjorkenstam E, Ljung R, Yngwe M. Widowhood and the risk of psychiatric care, psychotropic medication and all-cause mortality: a cohort study of 658,022 elderly people in Sweden. Aging Ment Health. 2011;15:259-66 pubmed publisher
    To study the effect of widowhood on the risk of psychiatric care, psychotropic medication and mortality, and to study if the effect is modified by educational level. A nationwide, register-based cohort study...
  25. Aartsen M, Van Tilburg T, Smits C, Comijs H, Knipscheer K. Does widowhood affect memory performance of older persons?. Psychol Med. 2005;35:217-26 pubmed
    ..The present study investigates the effect of widowhood on memory functioning in older persons...
  26. Kvikstad A, Vatten L, Tretli S. Widowhood and divorce in relation to overall survival among middle-aged Norwegian women with cancer. Br J Cancer. 1995;71:1343-7 pubmed
    The aim of the study was to examine the relations between widowhood and divorce and overall survival among women with cancer...
  27. Brown S, Nesse R, House J, Utz R. Religion and emotional compensation: results from a prospective study of widowhood. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2004;30:1165-74 pubmed
    ..Finally, insecure individuals were most likely to benefit from increasing the importance of their beliefs. Results are discussed in terms of the potential value of applying psychological theory to the study of religion. ..
  28. Byles J, Feldman S, Mishra G. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health: older widowed women's health, relationships and financial security. Women Health. 1999;29:15-30 pubmed
    ..However, stress with relationships with children or other family members was more likely to be reported by widows than other women. ..
  29. Lee G, DeMaris A, Bavin S, Sullivan R. Gender differences in the depressive effect of widowhood in later life. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2001;56:S56-61 pubmed
    This study documented the stronger adverse effect of widowhood on the psychological well-being of men than that of women and explained why this gender difference in the effect of widowhood exists...
  30. Li L, Liang J, Toler A, Gu S. Widowhood and depressive symptoms among older Chinese: do gender and source of support make a difference?. Soc Sci Med. 2005;60:637-47 pubmed
    ..gender and pre-bereavement social support from three different sources (spouse, adult children, and friends) on widowhood adjustment among older adults in China...
  31. Laditka J, Laditka S. Increased hospitalization risk for recently widowed older women and protective effects of social contacts. J Women Aging. 2003;15:7-28; discussion 185-7 pubmed
    This study examines effects of recent widowhood on health for a nationally representative sample of older women in the United States. Mediating effects of social connectedness on the health of recently widowed women are also explored...
  32. Ayikukwei R, Ngare D, Sidle J, Ayuku D, Baliddawa J, Greene J. HIV/AIDS and cultural practices in western Kenya: the impact of sexual cleansing rituals on sexual behaviours. Cult Health Sex. 2008;10:587-99 pubmed publisher
    ..These beliefs encourage men and women to have multiple sexual partners in a context where the use of condoms is rejected and little HIV testing is carried out. ..
  33. Prigerson H, Maciejewski P, Rosenheck R. Preliminary explorations of the harmful interactive effects of widowhood and marital harmony on health, health service use, and health care costs. Gerontologist. 2000;40:349-57 pubmed
    This study examined effects of widowhood and marital harmony on health, health service use, and health care costs...
  34. Manor O, Eisenbach Z. Mortality after spousal loss: are there socio-demographic differences?. Soc Sci Med. 2003;56:405-13 pubmed
    ..bereavement on mortality decreased linearly with age, with a relative risk of 3 among younger men during early widowhood. Bereavement had a greater impact on the more educated men...
  35. Hemminki K, Li X. Lifestyle and cancer: effect of widowhood and divorce. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003;12:899-904 pubmed
    Limited data are available on the possible changes in cancer risk brought about by widowhood and divorce, an increasing segment of the population...
  36. Lopman B, Nyamukapa C, Hallett T, Mushati P, Spark du Preez N, Kurwa F, et al. Role of widows in the heterosexual transmission of HIV in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, 1998-2003. Sex Transm Infect. 2009;85 Suppl 1:i41-8 pubmed publisher
    AIDS is the main driver of young widowhood in southern Africa...
  37. Subramanian S, Elwert F, Christakis N. Widowhood and mortality among the elderly: the modifying role of neighborhood concentration of widowed individuals. Soc Sci Med. 2008;66:873-84 pubmed publisher
    The effect of death of a spouse on the mortality of the survivor (the "widowhood effect") is well-established...
  38. Wilcox S, Evenson K, Aragaki A, Wassertheil Smoller S, Mouton C, Loevinger B. The effects of widowhood on physical and mental health, health behaviors, and health outcomes: The Women's Health Initiative. Health Psychol. 2003;22:513-22 pubmed
    This study examined whether widowhood was associated with physical and mental health, health behaviors, and health outcomes using a cross-sectional (N=72,247) and prospective (N=55,724) design in women aged 50-79 years participating in ..
  39. Shor E, Roelfs D, Curreli M, Clemow L, Burg M, Schwartz J. Widowhood and mortality: a meta-analysis and meta-regression. Demography. 2012;49:575-606 pubmed publisher
    ..Other significant predictors of HR magnitude included sample size, geographic region, level of statistical adjustment, and study quality. ..
  40. Krochalk P, Li Y, Chi I. Widowhood and self-rated health among Chinese elders: the effect of economic condition. Australas J Ageing. 2008;27:26-32 pubmed publisher
    ..effect of economic condition (income, work status, self-rated financial situation and financial support) on widowhood and self-rated health in elderly Chinese...
  41. Bonanno G, Wortman C, Nesse R. Prospective patterns of resilience and maladjustment during widowhood. Psychol Aging. 2004;19:260-71 pubmed
    ..Both the resilient and the depressed-improved groups showed remarkably healthy profiles and relatively little evidence of either struggling with or denying/avoiding the loss. ..
  42. Bennett K. Does marital status and marital status change predict physical health in older adults?. Psychol Med. 2006;36:1313-20 pubmed
    ..The impact of a change to divorced or to widowed status is not the same. No two health variables responded in the same way, suggesting that marital status has a differential effect on health. ..
  43. Field N, Horowitz M. Applying an empty-chair monologue paradigm to examine unresolved grief. Psychiatry. 1998;61:279-87 pubmed
  44. Onrust S, Cuijpers P. Mood and anxiety disorders in widowhood: a systematic review. Aging Ment Health. 2006;10:327-34 pubmed
    The association between widowhood and mental health problems, such as depressive symptomatology and anxiety, has been examined extensively...
  45. Schaal S, Jacob N, Dusingizemungu J, Elbert T. Rates and risks for prolonged grief disorder in a sample of orphaned and widowed genocide survivors. BMC Psychiatry. 2010;10:55 pubmed publisher
    ..Symptoms of PTSD may hinder the completion of the mourning process. Religious beliefs may facilitate the mourning process and help to find meaning in the loss. These aspects need to be considered in the treatment of PGD. ..
  46. Valdimarsdottir U, Helgason A, Fürst C, Adolfsson J, Steineck G. Long-term effects of widowhood after terminal cancer: a Swedish nationwide follow-up. Scand J Public Health. 2003;31:31-6 pubmed
    ..Completed questionnaires were received from 379 of the widows and 220 of the controls. Widowhood was associated with a low or moderate subjective quality of life (relative risk [RR] = 1...
  47. Angel J, Jiménez M, Angel R. The economic consequences of widowhood for older minority women. Gerontologist. 2007;47:224-34 pubmed
    We compare the economic consequences of widowhood for pre-retirement age and early-retirement age Black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic White women...
  48. Adetunji J. HIV/AIDS and young age widowhood in sub-Saharan Africa. J Health Hum Serv Adm. 2001;24:259-78 pubmed
    ..The implications of these results for research policy in Sub-Saharan Africa are discussed. ..
  49. Elwert F, Christakis N. The effect of widowhood on mortality by the causes of death of both spouses. Am J Public Health. 2008;98:2092-8 pubmed publisher
    ..The effect of widowhood on mortality varies substantially by the causes of death of both spouses, suggesting that the widowhood effect ..
  50. Nystedt P. Marital life course events and smoking behaviour in Sweden 1980-2000. Soc Sci Med. 2006;62:1427-42 pubmed
    ..Further, perceived financial stress is strongly connected to smoking and not being able to quit. Controlling for this effect still leaves a socio-economic status gradient in smoking. ..
  51. Zisook S, Shuchter S, Pedrelli P, Sable J, Deaciuc S. Bupropion sustained release for bereavement: results of an open trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2001;62:227-30 pubmed
    ..The results of this study challenge prevailing clinical wisdom that DSM-IV-defined bereavement should not be treated. Larger, placebo-controlled studies are indicated. ..
  52. Yip P, Thorburn J. Marital status and the risk of suicide: experience from England and Wales, 1982-1996. Psychol Rep. 2004;94:401-7 pubmed
    ..The decrease in suicide rates observed for the period 1982-1996 in England and Wales was mainly attributable to the reduction of suicide rates among the widowed and divorced. ..
  53. O CONNOR M, Arizmendi B. Neuropsychological correlates of complicated grief in older spousally bereaved adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014;69:12-8 pubmed publisher
    ..Complicated grief has cognitive interference as a neuropsychological component highlighting it as distinct from noncomplicated grief. ..