Journal Article

Immigration background and the widowhood effect on mortality

Caputo, J., Li, P., Kühn, M., Brønnum-Hansen, H., Oksuzyan, A.
Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 76:10, 2155–2168 (2021)
Open Access


Objectives: Widowhood is a stressful life event with one of the most profound negative effects on health and longevity. Immigrant populations are growing and aging throughout Western nations, and marginalization and cultural differences may make some immigrants especially vulnerable to the stressors of widowhood. However, studies have yet to systematically explore whether the widowhood effect differs between immigrant and native-born individuals.
Methods: Using Danish population register data from 1980 to 2014, this study assesses whether the relationship between widowhood and mortality differs between immigrants from 10 countries and native-born Danes aged 50 and older at 0–2, 3–5, and 6 and more years post-widowhood.
Results: We find that immigrant men are at higher risk of dying in the first 2 years after experiencing widowhood than Danish-born men, but these mortality differences dissipate over longer periods. Immigrant women have a higher risk of having died 3 and more years after a spouse’s death than Danish women. Patterns vary further by country of origin.
Discussion: The results suggest that some immigrants may suffer more from widowhood than native-born individuals, giving insight into how immigration background may influence the health effects of negative life events. They also underscore the potential vulnerabilities of aging immigrant populations to stressors encountered in older age.

Keywords: Denmark, immigrants, mortality, widowhood
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.