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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 1997 Feb;12(2):241-51.

The psychological symptoms of conjugal bereavement in elderly men over the first 13 months.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Queensland, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Herston, Australia.



The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychological symptoms experienced by recently widowed older men. It was hypothesized that conjugal bereavement in this group would be characterized by a mixture of depression, anxiety and loneliness.


Double cohort study.


Suburban community population of Brisbane, Australia.


Consecutive widowers (65+ years; N = 57) identified from official death records. Married men (65+ years; N = 57) identified from the electoral roll. Widowers interviewed at 6 weeks, 6 months and 13 months post-bereavement. Married men interviewed at similar intervals.


Bereavement Phenomenology Questionnaire (BPQ), a 22-item self-report measure employing a four-point response scale to rate the frequency of phenomena over the previous fortnight. Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (SDS). State component of the Spielberger State/Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS). 28-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ).


Widowers reported more state anxiety and general psychological distress, but not more depression or loneliness, than matched married men over the first 13 months post-bereavement. Widowers also reported more sleep disturbance and thoughts of death and suicide than married men. Level of state anxiety was strongly correlated with intensity of grief, but not with age, income, education, occupational prestige, cognitive function, duration of wife's final illness or expectedness of wife's death.


The main hypothesis was not supported, as anxiety symptoms were the predominant clinical feature of recent conjugal bereavement among older men. The nature of these anxiety symptoms requires further investigation in recently widowed older persons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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