Widowhood and Depression in a Cross-National Perspective: Evidence from the United States, Europe, Korea, and China.

TitleWidowhood and Depression in a Cross-National Perspective: Evidence from the United States, Europe, Korea, and China.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsJadhav, A, Weir, DR
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology: Series B
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsBereavement, CHARLS, Cross-National, Depressive symptoms, ELSA, KLoSA, SHARE

Objectives: We explore marital and depression trajectories over time for men and women, and distinguish between mood and somatic depression across contexts.

Method: We use longitudinal data from 2002 to 2013 from the United States, England, Europe, Korea, and China to explore depression among individuals married at baseline and follow their trajectories into widowhood with married as the reference group. We use random effects models to estimate these trajectories using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) or EURO-D scales for men and women.

Results: Depression peaks within the first year of widowhood for men and women, but women recover to levels comparable to married counterparts in all countries. Men sustain high levels of depression even 6-10 years post-widowhood everywhere except Europe. Widowed women have higher somatic depression compared to men, who have higher mood depression. Family plays differential roles in mediating depression across countries.

Discussion: Our research shows the complex global relationship between widowhood and depression. Studies that do not compare depression trajectories over time may make incorrect inferences about the persistence of depression by gender and country. Interventions should target different components of depression: mood-related symptoms for men and somatic-related symptoms for women for most effective recovery.

Alternate JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Citation Key9010
PubMed ID28329854
PubMed Central IDPMC6178968
Grant ListT32 AG000221 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States