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Consequences of Conjugal Bereavement in Adults

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) Identifier:
First received: November 3, 1999
Last updated: March 3, 2008
Last verified: May 2002

Bereavement refers to the expected reactions and sadness associated with the loss of a loved one. It has been reported that the loss of a spouse is rated as the major life stressor among survivors of varying ages and diverse cultural backgrounds. Statistics have shown that in the United States over 800,000 men and women lose a spouse each year.

A wide range of symptoms has been associated with bereavement including; depressed mood, tearfulness, sleep disturbances, and irrational behavior. Previous studies have shown that up to 50% of bereaved individuals can develop major depression. Bereavement has also been associated with dysfunction of the immune system. As a result, bereaved adults are more vulnerable to infection. However, the exact relationship between bereavement and immunity is uncertain.

Researchers firmly believe that a relationship does exist between stress, more specifically bereavement, immunity, and the increased chance of dying following the loss of a long-term spouse.

The objective of this study is to find possible links between bereavement, depression, and the immune system. This study will follow a group of elderly bereaved spouses and a group of elderly people who have not lost a long-term spouse. The group of bereaved individuals will be followed for approximately 13 months after the loss of their spouse and the group of controls will be followed for 13 months after entering the study. Researchers will make note of any clinical, biological, and immunological changes in any participants of the study.

Depressive Disorder
Immunologic Disease
Mental Disorder
Sleep Disorder

Study Type: Observational
Official Title: Conjugal Bereavement in Older Adults: Biological, Functional, and Psychological Consequences

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Estimated Enrollment: 210
Study Start Date: July 1997
Estimated Study Completion Date: May 2002
Detailed Description:
It is estimated that over 800,000 men and women become bereaved each year in the United States (LaRue et al, 1985). While the near certainty of such bereavement is predictable in one spouse or the other, the exact impact and duration of bereavement is much less predictable (Stroebe et al, 1995). It has been reported that the loss of a spouse is rated as the major life stressor among survivors of varying ages and diverse cultural backgrounds (Holmes and Rahe, 1967). As one copes with the loss of a loved one, expected reactions include sadness, tearfulness, and even depression (DeLeon, 1994; Pasternak, 1996). Other complications can include work-related difficulties, sleep disturbances, irrational behaviors, and immunologic dysfunction (Zisook, 1994; Prigerson, et al, 1995). All of these symptoms are common; yet, the underlying biology and relationship with the time course of bereavement are still poorly understood. The purpose of this study will be to prospectively follow a cohort of elderly bereaved spouses and controls from multiple clinical and biological perspectives over thirteen months after the loss of a spouse.

Ages Eligible for Study:   Child, Adult, Senior
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes
People over the age of 50 who have lost their spouse within the last three months.
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00001659

United States, Maryland
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  More Information

Publications: Identifier: NCT00001659     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 970157
Study First Received: November 3, 1999
Last Updated: March 3, 2008

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Activity of Daily Living
Immune Function
Occupational Performance
Sleep Disorders
Mood Changes

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Depressive Disorder
Sleep Wake Disorders
Mental Disorders
Psychotic Disorders
Immune System Diseases
Pathologic Processes
Mood Disorders
Behavioral Symptoms
Nervous System Diseases
Neurologic Manifestations
Signs and Symptoms
Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders processed this record on May 23, 2017