Much of Parkes’ thorough review of bereavement in the elderly in a previous issue of this journal is still highly relevant. Advances in our understanding of bereavement are surprisingly slow for a condition which is ubiquitous, and there are still disappointing gaps in our knowledge. A common difficulty for researchers in this field, and for clinicians reading their papers, is the problem of selection bias. Participants in studies on bereavement are often white and middle class. More often than not, grief research focuses on bereaved spouses rather than blood relatives or friends of the deceased. In addition, much research on bereavement originates from the USA, so the findings may not be as relevant in other countries. Lastly, of particular relevance to this paper, although many studies of grief purport to be of ‘older’ samples, closer inspection of the paper will often reveal a surprisingly young mean age; people over 75 are often excluded from bereavement research. These biases must be borne in mind when interpreting the findings from the studies discussed in this review.
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