Changes in routine health behaviors following late-life bereavement: a systematic review

J Behav Med. 2014 Aug;37(4):736-55. doi: 10.1007/s10865-013-9524-7. Epub 2013 Jul 24.


This systematic review examines the relationship between late-life spousal bereavement and changes in routine health behaviors. We review six behavioral domains/modifiable risk factors that are important for maintaining health among elderly populations: physical activity, nutrition, sleep quality, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and body weight status. Thirty-four articles were identified, derived from 32 studies. We found strong evidence for a relationship between bereavement and nutritional risk and involuntary weight loss, and moderate evidence for impaired sleep quality and increased alcohol consumption. There was mixed evidence for a relationship between bereavement and physical activity. We identify several methodological shortcomings, and describe the clinical implications of this review for the development of preventive intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Bereavement*
  • Body Weight
  • Diet / psychology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Nutritive Value
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Spouses