Widowhood and bereavement among the Swiss elderly. Exploring the associations in the causes of death

Michel Oris, Université de Genève
Jonathan Zufferey, Université de Genève
Reto Schumacher, Université de Genève

The bereavement effect has often been studied but very few researches considered the causes of death, and as far as we know none examined the associations that appears when we cross-tabulate the couples’ causes, taking into account the time distance between the two life ends. Using data from the Swiss National Cohort which linked the death certificates from 1990 to 2008 with the population censuses of 1990 and 2000, we observe 69’426 couples where both partners were aged 60 or more at the beginning of the observation and died before the end of observation. First analysis confirm the existence of bereavement effects with however different intensities according to the age at widowhood. For the Budapest congress, we propose a model including duration (Cox) and causes of death, then an exploration of the matrix of causes. Some associations suggest a psychological distress (suicide) or the exhaustion of the survivor who was the care giver (mainly cardio-vascular diseases), but the most intriguing observation occurs when the two couple members are dying from the same cause. There are two theoretical reasons to observe a concentration on the diagonal. The first reason is homogamy, i.e. same socio-cultural origins that can be measured from the census data. The second one is that they share food, roof, … a life style, and here we can integrate a time dimension, the marriage duration until widowhood. We want to integrate those measures in a Cox model exploring the risks of dying from the same cause that the partner. Please note that the attached long abstract is not a paper but research notes.

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Presented in Session 33: Associations, pathways and familial background