Journal Article

Gender differences in the use of anti-infective medications before and after widowhood: a register-based study

Santacroce, A., Wastesson, J. W., Höhn, A., Christensen, K., Oksuzyan, A.

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2018)

DOI:10.1136/ jech-2017-210114


Background: Recent findings suggest that bereavement due to spousal loss is associated with a decline in general immune functions, and thus to increased susceptibility to infections among widowed individuals. The present study aims to investigate whether spousal loss weakens immune refences more among men than among women using a 5% random sample of the total Danish population, and anti-infective medication use as a proxy for immune response. Methods: We followed 6076 Danish individuals (67% women) aged ≥50 from 5 years before and up to 5 years after widowhood to examine changes in prescriptions of anti-infectives for systemic use. Results: Women used more anti-infective drugs both before and after spousal loss (women: OR= 1.31; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.42). The age-related changes in the use of anti-infective medications in the period before widowhood were similar to that in the period after widowhood among both men and women. Also, age-related changes in the use of anti-infective medications were similar in both genders. Conclusions: The present study shows that individuals are more likely to use anti-infective medication after being widowed than before being widowed, but this change is likely to be related to increasing age and it is similar in both genders.