Food behavior change in late-life widowhood: A two-stage process

Appetite. 2015 Dec;95:399-407. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.07.027. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Widowhood is a common life event for married older women. Prior research has found disruptions in eating behaviors to be common among widows. Little is known about the process underlying these disruptions. The aim of this study was to generate a theoretical understanding of the changing food behaviors of older women during the transition of widowhood. Qualitative methods based on constructivist grounded theory guided by a critical realist worldview were used. Individual active interviews were conducted with 15 community-living women, aged 71-86 years, living alone, and widowed six months to 15 years at the time of the interview. Participants described a variety of educational backgrounds and levels of health, were mainly white and of Canadian or European descent, and reported sufficient income to meet their needs. The loss of regular shared meals initiated a two-stage process whereby women first fall into new patterns and then re-establish the personal food system, thus enabling women to redirect their food system from one that satisfied the couple to one that satisfied their personal food needs. Influences on the trajectory of the change process included the couple's food system, experience with nutritional care, food-related values, and food-related resources. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: Eating behavior; Food intake; Older adults; Qualitative; Widowhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marriage
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Environment
  • Widowhood*