Mortality after death of a spouse: Is risk the same for all groups?

Among married people, loss of a spouse has been shown to be associated with excess mortality, even after controlling for potential confounding factors. This phenomenon is known as the widowhood effect. While the widowhood effect has been found in a range of different studies across different countries, relatively little is known about how the size of the widowhood effect differs across different groups of people. One early study noted that excess mortality among widowers in higher social classes was greater than that of widowers in lower social classes; however, a more recent study found no education differences in the relative risk of mortality among the bereaved.

The aim of the proposed study is to use the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study to examine the widowhood effect in older people in Northern Ireland, and to determine if the effect differs across different socio-economic groups. This will involve examining the mortality risk for those people whose spouse has died since the 2001 census.



Wright, D., Rosato, M. and O’Reilly, D. (2015) ‘Urban/rural variation in the influence of widowhood on mortality risk: A cohort study of almost 300,000 couples’. Health & Place. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2015.04.003

Research Team: Dermot O’Reilly, Michael Rosato and David Wright
Database: NILS
Project Status: Complete
Organisation(s): Queen’s University Belfast