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Conjugal bereavement effects on health and mortality at advanced ages

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  • van den Berg, Gerard J.
  • Lindeboom, Maarten
  • Portrait, France

Abstract

Spousal bereavement at old ages may lead to dramatic changes in health. This paper investigates whether spousal bereavement has a causal effect on health and on mortality of the surviving spouse. We advance on the literature in two main ways. First, we model survivals of both spouses and the dynamic evolution of health jointly, allowing for potential endogeneity of timing of bereavement and health in explaining mortality of the surviving spouse. Second, we use a flexible non-parametric data dimensionality reduction method to thoroughly characterize health (using 22 health indicators) by a limited number of latent health indicators. This allows us to investigate the causal effect of spousal bereavement on mortality and on all aspects of health simultaneously. Our analyses are based on an ongoing longitudinal survey that follows a random sample of older individuals from 1992. We find strong instantaneous effects of bereavement on mortality and on certain aspects of health. Individuals lose on average 12% of residual life expectancy after conjugal bereavement. Conjugal bereavement affects the share of healthy years in residual lifetime, primarily because healthy years are replaced by years with chronic diseases. The strong direct effects of bereavement suggest that monitoring and/or interventions just after spousal bereavement are important for the length and quality of life of older bereaved individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • van den Berg, Gerard J. & Lindeboom, Maarten & Portrait, France, 2011. "Conjugal bereavement effects on health and mortality at advanced ages," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 774-794, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:30:y:2011:i:4:p:774-794
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The economics of bereavement
      by Chris Sampson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2013-06-20 10:59:52

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    Cited by:

    1. Fu‐Min Tseng & Dennis Petrie & Shaolin Wang & Colin Macduff & Audrey I. Stephen, 2018. "The impact of spousal bereavement on hospitalisations: Evidence from the Scottish Longitudinal Study," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 120-138, February.
    2. Teresa Bago d'Uva & Esen Erdogan Ciftci & Owen O'Donnell & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2015. "Who can predict their Own Demise? Accuracy of Longevity Expectations by Education and Cognition," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-052/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Jakob Everding & Jan Marcus, 2020. "The effect of unemployment on the smoking behavior of couples," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(2), pages 154-170, February.
    4. Robert Scholte & Gerard J. van den Berg & Maarten Lindeboom & Dorly J.H. Deeg, 2017. "Does the Size of the Effect of Adverse Events at High Ages on Daily‐Life Physical Functioning Depend on the Economic Conditions Around Birth?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 86-103, January.
    5. repec:jku:cdlwps:2015_07 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. van den Berg, Gerard J. & Gupta, Sumedha, 2015. "The role of marriage in the causal pathway from economic conditions early in life to mortality," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 141-158.
    7. Kira Henshaw & Corina Constantinescu & Olivier Menoukeu Pamen, 2020. "Stochastic Mortality Modelling for Dependent Coupled Lives," Risks, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(1), pages 1-28, February.
    8. Michele Belloni & Rob Alessie & Adriaan Kalwij & Chiara Marinacci, 2013. "Lifetime income and old age mortality risk in Italy over two decades," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 29(45), pages 1261-1298.
    9. Bernhard Schmidpeter, 2015. "The Fatal Consequences of Grief," CDL Aging, Health, Labor working papers 2015-07, The Christian Doppler (CD) Laboratory Aging, Health, and the Labor Market, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    10. Gerard J. Berg & Petter Lundborg & Johan Vikström, 2017. "The Economics of Grief," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(604), pages 1794-1832, September.
    11. van den Berg, Gerard J. & Drepper, Bettina, 2018. "A Unique Bond: Twin Bereavement and Lifespan Associations of Identical and Fraternal Twins," IZA Discussion Papers 11448, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Tseng, Fu-Min & Petrie, Dennis & Leon-Gonzalez, Roberto, 2017. "The impact of spousal bereavement on subjective wellbeing: Evidence from the Taiwanese elderly population," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 1-12.
    13. Simeonova, Emilia, 2013. "Marriage, bereavement and mortality: The role of health care utilization," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 33-50.
    14. Herbert J A Rolden & David van Bodegom & Rudi G J Westendorp, 2014. "Changes in Health Care Expenditure after the Loss of a Spouse: Data on 6,487 Older Widows and Widowers in the Netherlands," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 9(12), pages 1-17, December.
    15. Kung, Claryn S.J., 2020. "Health in widowhood: The roles of social capital and economic resources," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 253(C).
    16. Anne Lise Holm & Elisabeth Severinsson & Astrid Karin Berland, 2019. "The Meaning of Bereavement Following Spousal Loss: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of Older Adults," SAGE Open, , vol. 9(4), pages 21582440198, December.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mortality Bereavement Disease Life expectancy Elderly couples;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • C41 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Duration Analysis; Optimal Timing Strategies

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