Effect of widowhood on disability onset in elderly men from three european countries

C.L. van den Brink, M.A.R. Tijhuis, G.A.M. van den Bos, S. Giampaoli, P. Kivinen, A.M. Nissinen, D. Kromhout

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30 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To investigate in different countries the effects of becoming widowed, duration of widowhood, and household composition of widowed men on disability onset in different disability domains. DESIGN: Longitudinal data from a cohort study collected around 1990, 1995, and 2000. SETTING: Three cohorts from Finland, The Netherlands, and Italy. PARTICIPANTS: Seven hundred thirty-six men, aged 70 and older at baseline. MEASUREMENTS: Disability was measured using standardized questionnaire on activities of daily living (ADLs). Three domains were assessed: instrumental ADLs (IADLs), mobility, and basic ADLs (BADLs). Duration of widowhood was divided into less than 5 years and 5 or more years and household composition into living alone and living with family or in an institution. RESULTS: Men who became widowed developed more IADL disabilities (odds ratio (OR)=2.15; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.22-3.81) and mobility (OR=1.84; 95% CI=1.15-2.96) than men who were still married. Men who had been widowed for less than 5 years developed more IADL disabilities than those who had been widowed for 5 years or more (OR=2.27; 95% CI=1.14-4.54). Widowed men living alone showed fewer disabilities in mobility (OR=0.25; 95% CI=0.09-0.73) and BADLs (OR=0.02; 95% CI=0.001-0.33) than those living with others. The effects on disability onset did not differ between countries. CONCLUSION: Widowhood in elderly men is a risk factor for dependency in IADLs and mobility. The growth in the number of widowers may lead to higher demands on family care and professional care
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-358
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • self-rated health
  • marital-status
  • life events
  • mortality differences
  • depressive symptoms
  • older adults
  • netherlands
  • performance
  • gender

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