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Spousal death not so distressing for the elderly

A study says that elderly people are able to cope with the loss of spouse without experiencing chronic grief.
None | By Asian News International, London
PUBLISHED ON MAR 21, 2006 12:33 PM IST

A new study has found that the death of a beloved spouse may not be as upsetting as previously thought, and that most elderly people are able to cope with the loss of a loved one without experiencing chronic grief.

The study, by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, was conducted on 1,500 couples over the age of 65, and repudiates earlier belief that those who experienced minimal grief were people who either lacked a close attachment to their spouse, or were in denial of their death.

The study found that though almost half of the people interviewed said that they had enjoyed a good marriage, they had still been able to cope with the death of a spouse without much grieving.

Deborah Carr, a Rutgers University sociologist, and the lead researcher who began the study while she was at the University of Michigan, said that 46 percent of the people interviewed had accepted the death of a partner as a part of life.

“Forty-six per cent of the widows and widowers in this study reported they had satisfying marriages. They believed life is fair and they accepted that death is part of life,” the BBC quoted her, as saying.

“Taken together, these findings provide strong evidence that men and women who show this resilient pattern of grief are not emotionally distant or in denial, but are in fact well-adjusted individuals responding to the loss in a healthy way,” she added.

The study also found that 16 percent of surviving spouses experienced chronic grief lasting more than 18 months, and that though one in 10 people had high levels of depression six months after the loss this seemed to ebb significantly after 18 months.

Carr said that it was also noted that the death of a partner was a relief to 10 percent of those people who felt trapped in a bad marriage.

“These are people who felt trapped in a bad marriage or onerous care-giving duties and widowhood offered relief and escape,” she said.

The findings of the study are published in new book titled ‘Spousal Bereavement in Late Life’, co-authored by psychologist Camille Wortman of the State University of New York.

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