Historical trends of survival among widows and widowers
One of the most consistent findings in social demography is that recently widowed individuals, male or female, have higher rates of mortality than comparable married persons. These results are based generally on contemporary studies in developed nations where life expectancy is high. Because of data limitations, there are few studies available to determine whether these findings also occur when mortality rates were higher. This study uses the Utah Population Database that was developed from extensive family genealogies and now linked to Utah death certificates. These data make it possible to employ life course analysis of four marriage cohorts extending from 1860 through 1904 with mortality follow-up to 1990. This approach is used to compare mortality risks of widowed males and females relative to comparable married individuals. Covariates included in the study are remarriage, as well as religion and number of children ever born; these are all hypothesized to have protective effects on mortality risks for widowed men and women. Analysis of these data indicates that there are significant differences in the mortality risk for widowed men and women, and it is widowed men who have an excess risk of dying in every cohort and nearly every age. A consistent pattern of excess mortality in the comparison of married and widowed women was not observed. There are significant female and male differences in the effect of religion which was treated as a proxy for life style and social support; however, remarriage as a proxy for social support has similar protective effects on the surviving spouse.
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Volume (Year): 54 (2002)
Issue (Month): 2 (January)
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