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Psychiatr Serv. 2001 Aug;52(8):1069-74.

Prevalence of loss and complicated grief among psychiatric outpatients.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.



This study examined the prevalence of significant loss through the death of another person as well as complicated grief among patients at two psychiatric outpatient clinics for one year.


A total of 729 patients were interviewed about significant losses through death during their lives. Standard questionnaires were used to classify 235 patients who had experienced such losses into three groups: those who had minimal disturbance, those who had moderate complicated grief, and those who had severe complicated grief. Multivariate and univariate analyses of variance were used to test for differences in loss-specific variables (for example, pathological grief) and variables that were not specific to loss (for example, depression) among the three groups.


More than half of the 729 patients reported that they had experienced one or more significant losses through death. About a third of all patients who came to the clinics met the criteria for either moderate or severe complicated grief. The average time since the loss was about ten years, indicating that these patients had long-term complicated grief. Significant differences in loss-specific variables and variables that were not specific to loss were detected among the three groups. Patients who had severe complicated grief scored higher than patients in the other two groups on both types of variables. Patients with moderate complicated grief had higher scores than those with minimal disturbance.


Clinicians should routinely assess outpatients for loss and complicated grief and should consider addressing loss and complicated grief in treatment. Rather than a single classification of complicated grief, different levels should be considered.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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