Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Risk Factors for Complicated Grief and Other Negative Bereavement Outcomes
In general, men experience more negative consequences than women do after losing a spouse. Mortality rates of bereaved men and women are higher for both men and women compared to nonbereaved people; however, the relative increase in mortality is higher for men than for women. Men also tend to experience greater degrees of depression and greater degrees of overall negative health consequences than do women after a spouse's death. Some researchers have suggested that the mechanism for this difference is the lower level of social support provided to bereaved men than that provided to bereaved women.
In general, younger bereaved persons experience more difficulties after a loss than do older bereaved persons. These difficulties include more severe health consequences, grief symptoms, and psychological and physical symptoms. The reason for this age-related difference may be the fact that younger bereaved persons are more likely to have experienced unexpected and sudden loss. However, it is also thought that younger bereaved persons may experience more difficulties during the initial period after the loss but may recover more quickly because they have more access to various types of resources (e.g., social support) than do older bereaved persons.
Interpersonal Context: Social Support
Social support is a highly complex construct, consisting of a variety of components (perceived availability, social networks, supportive climate/environment, support seeking) and measured in a variety of ways. However, as mentioned above, lack of social support is a risk factor for negative bereavement outcomes: It is both a general risk factor for negative health outcomes and a bereavement-specific risk factor for negative outcomes after loss. For example, after the death of a close family member (e.g., spouse), many persons report a number of related losses (often unanticipated) such as the loss of income, lifestyle, and daily routine—all important aspects of social support.
- Tomarken A, Holland J, Schachter S, et al.: Factors of complicated grief pre-death in caregivers of cancer patients. Psychooncology 17 (2): 105-11, 2008.
- Stroebe W, Schut H: Risk factors in bereavement outcome: a methodological and empirical review. In: Stroebe MS, Hansson RO, Stroebe W, et al., eds.: Handbook of Bereavement Research: Consequences, Coping, and Care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001, 349-71.
- Bowlby J: Attachment and Loss. Volume III: Loss: Sadness and Depression. New York, NY: Basic Books, Inc., 1980.
- Parkes CM, Weiss RS: Recovery from Bereavement. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1983.
- van Doorn C, Kasl SV, Beery LC, et al.: The influence of marital quality and attachment styles on traumatic grief and depressive symptoms. J Nerv Ment Dis 186 (9): 566-73, 1998.
- Nolen-Hoeksema S, McBride A, Larson J: Rumination and psychological distress among bereaved partners. J Pers Soc Psychol 72 (4): 855-62, 1997.
- Shuchter SR, Zisook S: The course of normal grief. In: Stroebe MS, Stroebe W, Hansson RO, eds.: Handbook of Bereavement: Theory, Research, and Intervention. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp 23-43.