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Widowhood and mortality among the elderly: The modifying role of neighborhood concentration of widowed individuals

  • Subramanian, S.V.
  • Elwert, Felix
  • Christakis, Nicholas
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    The effect of death of a spouse on the mortality of the survivor (the "widowhood effect") is well-established. We investigated how the effect of widowhood on mortality depends on the neighborhood concentration of widowed individuals in the United States. We developed a large, nationally representative, and longitudinal dataset from Medicare claims and other data sources characterizing 200,000 elderly couples, with nine years of follow-up (1993-2002), and estimated multilevel grouped discrete-time hazard models. In neighborhoods with a low concentration of widowed individuals, widowhood increased the odds of death for men by 22% and for women by 17%, compared to 17% for men, and 15% for women in neighborhoods with a high concentration of widowed individuals. Our findings suggest that neighborhood structural contexts - that provide opportunities for interacting with others and favoring new social engagements - could be potential modifiers of the widowhood effects and as such requires more systematic consideration in future research of widowhood effects on well-being and mortality.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 66 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 4 (February)
    Pages: 873-884

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:4:p:873-884
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