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Do Education and Income Buffer the Effects of Death of Spouse on Mortality?

Pekka Martikainen and Tapani Valkonen
Epidemiology
Vol. 9, No. 5 (Sep., 1998), pp. 530-534
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3702530
Page Count: 5
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Do Education and Income Buffer the Effects of Death of Spouse on Mortality?
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Abstract

In this paper, we estimate the effects of the death of a spouse on the mortality of the survivor in different education and income groups. These socioeconomic resources may buffer the harmful effects of the stressful life event of the loss of one's spouse. The data come from a prospective study of mortality among all 35- to 74-year-old married Finnish persons. Follow-up was established by record linkage to death certificate registers for 1986-1991 (about 86,000 deaths, of which almost 5,500 occurred among the bereaved). The relative mortality after the death of one's spouse was broadly similar in different education and income groups. Absolute differences in mortality rates between bereaved and nonbereaved persons were larger in the lower end of the social spectrum, however. This pattern held for four broad categories of death: both sexes and two age groups (35-64 years and 65-74 years). The degree to which socioeconomic resources buffer the effects of death of spouse depends on whether it is assessed in terms of rate differences or rate ratios. Nevertheless, regardless of measurement choice, the effects of bereavement exist in all socioeconomic groups analyzed in this study. Furthermore, because of the high absolute level of mortality, the burden of excess mortality experienced after the death of one's spouse is heavier in the lower social strata.

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