Does the suddenness matter? Antidepressant use before and after a spouse dies suddenly or expectedly of stroke
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 51:1, 75–81 (2023)
Aims: Changes in mental health at the time of widowhood may depend on the expectedness of spousal death, but scant evidence is available for spousal deaths attributable to stroke. Methods: Using register-linkage data for Finland, we assessed changes in antidepressant use before and after spousal death for those whose spouses died suddenly of stroke between 1998 and 2003 (N=1820) and for those whose spouses died expectedly of stroke, with prior hospitalisation for cerebrovascular disease (N=1636). We used both population-averaged logit models and individual fixed-effects linear probability models. The latter models control for unobserved time-invariant heterogeneity between the individuals. Results: Our study indicates that the suddenness of a spouse’s death from stroke plays a role in the well-being of the surviving spouse. Increases in antidepressant use appeared larger following widowhood for those whose spouses died suddenly of stroke relative to those whose spouses had a medical history of cerebrovascular disease. Conclusions: The suddenness of a spouse’s death from stroke plays a role for the surviving spouse. The results suggest multifaceted timings of distress surrounding spousal death, depending on the suddenness of a spouse’s death from stroke.