Sex differences in medication and primary healthcare use before and after spousal bereavement at older ages in Denmark: nationwide register study of over 6000 bereavements
Journal of Aging Research (2011)
Background. The study aimed to examine sex differences in healthcare use short and long-term after widowhood in order to investigate whether reduced healthcare use among widowers compared with widows may partially explain excess mortality and more adverse health outcomes among men than women after spousal loss.
Methods. All individuals alive and aged at least 60 years by January 1, 1996 and who became widowed in the period from January 1, 1996 to January 31, 2003 were selected from the 5% sample of the total Danish population and all Danish twins. The healthcare use was assessed as the average daily all-cause and major system-specific medication use and the average annual number of visits to general physicians (GPs) the year before and the following 4-5 years after spousal loss.
Results. This study showed that the average daily use of all-cause and major system-specific medications, as well as the number of GP visits increased over the period from 1 year before and up to 5 years after a spouse’s death, but there were no sex-specific patterns in the trajectories of medication use and number of GP visits after conjugal loss. Increasing number of GP visits and average medication use is likely to reflect the effect of age on the health care utilization rather than the effect of spousal loss.
Conclusion. We found little support for the hypothesis that reduced healthcare use contributes to the explanation of more adverse health outcomes after conjugal loss in men compared with women in Denmark.
Keywords: Denmark, old age, primary health care, sex, widowhood