by Staff writer
Grieving husbands are more likely to die shortly after losing their wife, while widowed women carry on as normal, new research has found.
In the research, men were found to be a third more likely to die after being recently widowed, compared with their normal risk of mortality.
Women, on the other hand, had no increased chance of dying after their husbands passed away, with researchers suggesting they are likely to be more independent and prepared.
Professor Javier Espinosa, who led the study at the Rochester Institute of Technology in America, said: “When a wife dies, men are often unprepared.
“They have often lost their caregiver, someone who cares for them physically and emotionally, and the loss directly impacts the husband’s health.
“This same mechanism is likely weaker for most women when a husband dies.
“Therefore, the connection in mortalities for wives may be a reflection of how similar mates’ lives become over time.”
Professor Espinosa used data records from married people born between 1910 and 1930 to examine when partners died in relation to one another.
He found men who are grieving after their wife’s death experience a 30 per cent increase in mortality. For women, there is no increased chance of dying due to the loss of their husband.
The team also conducted research into maternal mortality, compiling results from more than 69,000 mothers aged between 20 and 50 over nine years.
He found that the impact on mother mortality is strongest in the two years immediately following the child’s death, with grieving mothers three times more likely to die.
According to Prof Espinosa’s results the chances of a mother dying increases as much as 133% after they lose a child.
Prof Espinosa, an expert in health and labour economics, said: “To my knowledge, this is the first study to empirically analyse this issue with a large, nationally represented US data set.
“The evidence of a heightened mortality rate for the mother, particularly in the first two years of the child’s passing, is especially relevant to public health policy and the timing of interventions that aim to improve the adverse health outcomes mothers experience after the death of a child.”
Prof Espinosa’s study, titled Maternal Bereavement: The heightened mortality of mothers after the death of a child, co-written by William Evans from the University of Notre Dame, was published in the Economics and Human Biology journal.