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Managing the Death of a Spouse

Income, no matter how high, may not help people cope

FRIDAY, Nov. 29, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Money can't buy you happiness and it may not protect you from grief and depression when your spouse dies, says a University of Michigan (U-M) study.

The study found that no matter how high their incomes, surviving spouses who depended heavily on their husbands or wives to pay bills and handle financial planning and legal matters were particularly vulnerable to depression and grief after the spouse died.

These people need to be offered training to help them with such skills as bill-paying and balancing checkbooks in order to help them cope with their new situation and their sense of strain, the researchers say.

The study also found that living within a hour's drive of an adult child can improve levels of well-being and lower levels of depression for widows and widowers.

The U-M researchers analyzed data from the Changing Lives of Older Couples study, a random community-based study of 1,532 married men and women age 65 and older. They compared the economic resources, sense of financial strain and psychological health of 211 widows and widowers to 86 people in a control group.

The researchers found that about 6 per cent of widow and widowers suffered serious financial problems after the death of their spouse, while 63 per cent reported less income and 34 per cent said they had a significant increase in their financial strain after their spouse died.

The findings were presented at the recent annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

More Information

The AARP has more about coping with loss.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, November 2002
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