Background: The impact of spousal bereavement on mental health varies among the widowed. More information is needed on factors influencing bereavement outcome.
Method: We conducted a cross-sectional study on a sample of 216 widowed individuals. Initial non-response was high, with only 8% of all approached persons participating in the study. The influence of demographic and psychosocial predictors on four general outcome measures (depression, anxiety, somatization, and quality of life) and one loss-related outcome (complicated grief) was studied by means of backward linear regression analysis. Further analyses were performed to explore the possibility of a buffer effect.
Results: Depressive symptomatology was best predicted by: age, duration of widowhood, perceived non-supportiveness, physical disorders, and mastery. The other outcome measures were predicted by the same predictors supplemented by gender and education. Mastery interacted with the number of physical disorders while perceived social support interacted with duration of widowhood and age.
Conclusions: Enhancement of mastery should probably be one of the components of effective support for widowed individuals most vulnerable to psychiatric complications. The widowed could furthermore benefit from social support. Obviously, these suggestions need to be further examined in longitudinal research with more representative samples.