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J Palliat Med. 2005 Feb;8(1):96-106.

Health behaviors associated with better quality of life for older bereaved persons.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



Bereavement is a risk factor for declines in health, adverse health behaviors, increased physician visits, and mortality, and occurs with greatest frequency in later life. Little is known about health behaviors that are associated with better quality of life among recently bereaved older persons.


The objective of this community-based longitudinal, observational study was to examine the influence of health behaviors on the quality of life of 200 elderly bereaved persons.


Health behaviors (i.e., exercise, monitoring caloric intake, sleep, daily vitamin intake, annual health check-ups) were examined at approximately 6 months postloss (baseline) and 11 months postloss (Wave 2). Quality of life was assessed at approximately 11 months postloss and 19 months postloss (Wave 3), using the RAND 36-Item Health Survey, which measures 8 domains of health and functioning, plus a single item assessing change in health.


Consistently exercising 1 or more days per week at Waves 1 and 2 significantly (p < .05) predicted better self-rated health, physical functioning, fewer physical role limitations, and greater energy at Wave 3 in models that adjusted for age, gender, prior psychiatric disorder, baseline reports of functional disabilities and chronic conditions. Consistently monitoring caloric intake at Waves 1 and 2 predicted better self-rated health (p < .05), greater energy (p < .01), and positive change in health (p < .05) at Wave 3 in models that adjusted for the above set of control variables. Sleeping 6.5-9 hours per night at baseline alone predicted better social functioning (p < .001), fewer emotional role limitations (p < .01), better emotional health (p < .001), and greater energy (p < .01).


Should future research confirm these results, clinicians would be advised to recommend the identified preventive and protective health behaviors to recently bereaved older patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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