Objectives: This study examines excess mortality among Finnish persons after the death of a spouse, by sex, the subject's cause of death, duration of bereavement, and age.
Methods: The subjects were 1580000 married Finnish persons aged 35 through 84 years who were followed up from 1986 through 1991.
Results: Excess mortality among the bereaved was high from accidental, violent, and alcohol-related causes (50% to 150%), moderate for chronic ischemic heart disease and lung cancer (20% to 35%), and small for other causes (5% to 15%). Excess mortality was greater at short ( < 6 months) rather than long durations of bereavement and among younger rather than older bereaved persons for most causes of death; it was also greater among men that women.
Conclusions: The results are consistent with the hypothesis that excess mortality after the death of a spouse is partly caused by stress. The loss of social support or the inability to cope with stress may explain why men suffer from bereavement more than do women.