Journal Article

Risk of hospitalization for cancer, musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, or poisonings surrounding widowhood

Einiö, E., Martikainen, P.
American Journal of Epidemiology, 188:1, 110–118 (2019)
Open Access


Psychological distress has been indicated to affect the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and external causes. Mortality from these major causes of death is also known to be elevated after widowhood when distress is at a heightened level. Surprisingly little is known about changes in health other than mental and cardiac health shortly before widowhood. We used longitudinal data on widowed (n = 19,185) and continuously married (n = 105,939) individuals in Finland (1996–2002) to assess the risk of hospitalization for cancer and for external and musculoskeletal causes surrounding widowhood or random dates. We fitted population-averaged logit models using longitudinal data of older adults aged 65 years or over. The results show that hospitalization for injuries had already increased prior to widowhood and clearly peaked after it. The increases were largely related to falls. A similar increasing pattern of findings was not found around a random date for a group of continuously married individuals. Hospitalizations for cancer and musculoskeletal disorders appeared to be unrelated to the process of widowhood. Hospitalizations for poisonings increased after widowhood. The results imply that the process of widowhood is multifaceted and that various types of health changes should be studied separately and before the actual loss.

Keywords: marriage, neoplasms, widowhood, wounds and injuries
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