A group of randomly selected bereaved (average age 61 years) and age- and sex-matched controls were studied prospectively for one year to determine the mortality and morbidity of the first year of bereavement.
In contrast to most published data, the groups showed no difference in the one-year mortality rates. The bereaved experienced significantly more psychological and physical depressive symptoms than their nonbereaved counterparts. Despite this, there were no differences in the two groups in number of physicians visits, hospitalizations, and use of tranquilizers. There was a small but significant increase in use of hypnotics by the bereaved.
A review of the literature indicates there is an increased psychological morbidity in the younger widowed, but not in older widowed. The group reported here was of older age.