IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Historical trends of survival among widows and widowers


  • Mineau, Geraldine P.
  • Smith, Ken R.
  • Bean, Lee L.


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mineau, Geraldine P. & Smith, Ken R. & Bean, Lee L., 2002. "Historical trends of survival among widows and widowers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 245-254, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:54:y:2002:i:2:p:245-254

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(3), pages 565-591, September.
    2. Ettner, Susan L., 1996. "New evidence on the relationship between income and health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 67-85, February.
    3. Godfrey, Leslie G & McAleer, Michael & McKenzie, Colin R, 1988. "Variable Addition and LaGrange Multiplier Tests for Linear and Logarithmic Regression Models," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(3), pages 492-503, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Espinosa, Javier & Evans, William N., 2008. "Heightened mortality after the death of a spouse: Marriage protection or marriage selection?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1326-1342, September.
    2. Goldman, Alyssa W., 2016. "All in the family: The link between kin network bridging and cardiovascular risk among older adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 137-149.
    3. Liu, Hui, 2012. "Marital dissolution and self-rated health: Age trajectories and birth cohort variations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(7), pages 1107-1116.
    4. Jang, Soong-Nang & Kawachi, Ichiro & Chang, Jiyeun & Boo, Kachung & Shin, Hyun-Gu & Lee, Hyejung & Cho, Sung-il, 2009. "Marital status, gender, and depression: Analysis of the baseline survey of the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing (KLoSA)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(11), pages 1608-1615, December.
    5. Kang, Jeong-han & Kim, Jibum & Lee, Min-Ah, 2016. "Marital status and mortality: Does family structure in childhood matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 152-160.
    6. Merlo, Juan & Viciana-Fernández, Francisco J. & Ramiro-Fariñas, Diego, 2012. "Bringing the individual back to small-area variation studies: A multilevel analysis of all-cause mortality in Andalusia, Spain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1477-1487.
    7. Noymer, Andrew, 2009. "Testing the influenza-tuberculosis selective mortality hypothesis with Union Army data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(9), pages 1599-1608, May.
    8. Smith, Ken R. & Mineau, Geraldine P. & Garibotti, Gilda & Kerber, Richard, 2009. "Effects of childhood and middle-adulthood family conditions on later-life mortality: Evidence from the Utah Population Database, 1850-2002," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(9), pages 1649-1658, May.
    9. Heidi Hanson & Ken Smith & Zachary Zimmer, 2015. "Reproductive History and Later-Life Comorbidity Trajectories: A Medicare-Linked Cohort Study From the Utah Population Database," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(6), pages 2021-2049, December.

    More about this item


    Mortality Widowhood Remarriage;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:54:y:2002:i:2:p:245-254. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.