The interaction effect of bereavement and sex on the risk of suicide in the elderly: an historical cohort study

Soc Sci Med. 1995 Mar;40(6):825-8. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(94)00135-g.


To examine the hypothesis that the increased risk of suicide for the widowed elderly is dependent of sex, suicide mortality in a cohort of 6266 white married and 3486 white widowed persons aged 60 yr or older in 1963 was evaluated based on a 12-yr follow-up survey in Washington County, MD. Death rates from suicide were 28.7 per 100,000 person-yr for the married, and 40.4 for the widowed. An interaction effect was found between bereavement and sex: the risk of suicide for widowed men was 3.3 times as high as for married men (95% confidence interval, 1.3-8.3), but the risk of suicide for widowed women did not increase compared with that for married women (relative risk 1.0, 95% CI 0.3-3.1). Adjustment for social and behavioral factors did not change the interaction effect to any meaningful extent. The results suggest that widowed men should be one of the prior targets of suicide prevention and intervention programs for the elderly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bereavement*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Data Collection
  • Education
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex*
  • Software
  • Suicide*
  • Widowhood*