New relationship important for the mental health of widowers

December 13, 2011

Men who have lost their partner to cancer and who are still single four to five years after their loss run a far greater risk of developing mental illness than those who have managed to find a new partner, reveals a unique study of 691 Swedish widowers carried out at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

More than 22,000 people die of cancer in Sweden each year. It has been scientifically proven that relatives of the deceased are at greater risk of dying themselves or developing mental and , although studies have tended to focus on widows, and on the short-term risks.

Unique long-term study

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy have now carried out a unique long-term study of 691 Swedish men who lost their wives to cancer. Part-funded by the Swedish Cancer Society and the Swedish Research Council, the study shows that widowers who had found a four to five years after the death of their wife managed to deal with their loss relatively well.

Sleeping pills and antidepressants

However, those who remained single were at far greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, and emotional blunting, and were also more likely to use and antidepressants.

Long-term risk

"Previous studies have shown that people who lose their partner are at greater short-term ," says professor Gunnar Steineck who worked on the study. "Our study is the first to show that the risk of poor mental health last for many years but, on the average, the risk is restricted to those who don't find a new partner."

Can your results be interpreted as proof that love heals?

"We need more research to understand the underlying mechanisms, but yes, from a new partner does probably help to process grief and protect against mental illness," says Steineck. "But it could also be the case that those men who cope best with their loss are more likely to show an interest in finding a new partner."

Explore further: Resilience amongst the long-term ill

More information: The study has been published in the journal Psycho-Oncology. DOI: 10.1002/pon.2096

Related Stories

Resilience amongst the long-term ill

July 11, 2011

People who have a long term debilitating physical illness demonstrate mental resilience according to Understanding Society, the world's largest longitudinal household study. The first findings reveal that people diagnosed ...

Recommended for you

Repeating aloud to another person boosts recall

October 6, 2015

Repeating aloud boosts verbal memory, especially when you do it while addressing another person, says Professor Victor Boucher of the University of Montreal's Department of Linguistics and Translation. His findings are the ...

Men more likely to be seen as 'creative thinkers'

September 28, 2015

People tend to associate the ability to think creatively with stereotypical masculine qualities, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.