Background: Older adults grieving the death of a spouse have been found to have a higher risk of complicated grief compared with younger adults.
Objective: The study objective was to find out whether personal characteristics of the patient and the bereaved partner, or characteristics of the patient's illness, end-of-life care, and the nature of death are risk factors for complicated grief in older adults.
Methods: We performed a nested case-control study within the Rotterdam Study. We selected 100 couples of which one person had deceased and the other person experienced "complicated grief," and 100 control couples of which one person had deceased and the other person experienced "normal grief." Complicated grief was assessed with a 17-item Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG). Determinants were assessed using several sources of information that were available for all participants of the Rotterdam Study. Additionally, medical files of the deceased were manually screened. Logistic regression analysis was performed.
Results: Only depression at baseline was significantly associated with complicated grief. Bereaved partners with depression at baseline had a higher risk of complicated grief compared to bereaved partners without depression (OR=3.48; 95% CI=1.40-8.68).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that complicated grief in older adults is not clearly related to the circumstances of dying of the deceased partner. Preexisting conditions such as depression seem to be more important in explaining the occurrence of complicated grief.