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J Health Soc Behav. 2001 Dec;42(4):333-41.

Communal bereavement and the incidence of very low birthweight in Sweden.

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School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Prime minister Olof Palme's murder in 1986 and the sinking of the ferry Estonia in 1994 were stressful events for many Swedes, but did that stress affect health? We used an interrupted time-series design to measure the association between these events and the incidence of very low birthweight. Effects of male unemployment, size of the birth cohort, and temperature were controlled in our analysis of data for the period 1973-1995. The incidence of very low birthweight rose significantly in the months following the Palme murder and the Estonia catastrophe. Events that trigger communal bereavement at the scale we study may seem rare but they do occur (e.g., destruction of the World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon). Events with less visibility, moreover, may induce communal bereavement in smaller populations defined by geography or organizational participation.

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