Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

A prospective study of widowhood and changes in symptoms of depression in a community sample of the elderly

C. F. Mendes De Leona1 c1, S. V. Kasla1 and S. Jacobsa1

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

Abstract

This survey examines changes in depressive symptomatology (CES-D) during bereavement in 1046 elderly subjects, of whom 139 became widowed during follow-up. Depression scores increased during the first year of bereavement, but generally returned to pre-widowhood levels thereafter. However, depression scores remained elevated among young-old widows (65–74year-olds) well after the first year of widowhood. Using cut-off scores, rates of high depressive symptoms remained somewhat elevated over baseline levels. Increases in depression scores during bereavement were not explained by socio-economic variables, health habits and health status. It is concluded that particularly young-old widows are at risk of developing chronic depressive symptomatology during bereavement that may warrant clinical attention.

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Carlos F. Mendes de Leon, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, 60 College Street, PO Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520–8034, USA

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