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South Med J. 2005 Jan;98(1):90-5.

Depression as a mediator between spousal bereavement and mortality from cardiovascular disease: appreciating and managing the adverse health consequences of depression in an elderly surviving spouse.

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VITAS Healthcare Corporation, Miami, FL, USA.


Bereavement in the elderly is becoming a more frequent phenomenon as a result of the aging of the population. The death of an elderly spouse increases psychologic morbidity, particularly depressive symptoms, as well as mortality. Depression increases the risk of death independent of age or bereavement, and can thus exacerbate the health effects of losing a spouse. This magnifier effect is especially pernicious because bereavement and depression both tend to increase cardiovascular mortality rates. Primary care physicians should be alert for signs of mood disorders in elderly persons who have recently lost a spouse. Potential therapies for depression in an elderly bereaved individual include pharmacologic agents, psychotherapy, and psychosocial support. Data also support the value of encouraging religious patients to continue with spiritual observances. Although these approaches decrease mood disorders, it is not yet clear whether they also reduce the risk of death or cardiovascular disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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