Prospective Analysis of the Effect of Widowhood on CVD
To determine the effect of widowhood on cardiovascular disease.
|Study Design:||Observational Model: Natural History|
|Study Start Date:||September 1993|
|Estimated Study Completion Date:||February 1996|
Widowed persons have been found to have higher mortality rates than married persons in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. In many of these studies, excess mortality has been attributed to deaths from cardiovascular disease. Despite these consistent findings, the lack of detailed data collected prior to widowhood has hampered our ability to understand the mechanisms to explain this effect. Furthermore, an understanding of the mechanisms underlying this effect might help elucidate the apparent gender differences in mortality following widowhood.
The study took advantage of the data collected as part of the Framingham Study to investigate the effect of widowhood on cardiovascular disease. The Framingham dataset has extensive clinical data related to cardiovascular disease, as well as to health behaviors. These longitudinal data provided the opportunity to prospectively characterize the health of widows prior to and following the loss of a spouse in much greater detail than previously possible. The analyses used a prospective design in which those men and women who had a spouse die during the course of the study (N=626) were compared to men and women who remained married (N=2044). These analyses also provided the opportunity to examine reasons for the beneficial effect found of remarriage. The study addressed the following questions: 1. Can the increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease often found following widowhood be explained by pre-widowhood health status? 2. Can increased mortality following widowhood be explained by changes in health behaviors related to cardiovascular disease risk. 3. What pre-widowhood risk factors place the widowed at greater risk for cardiovascular disease morbidity and/or mortality following the death of a spouse? 4. Can pre-widowhood risk factors or post-widowhood behavior change account for gender differences in mortality following widowhood?