After death of a spouse, friends might help more than relatives

June 16, 2014
After death of a spouse, friends might help more than relatives
Family relationships can feel obligatory, not reduce stress, researcher explains.

(HealthDay)—When a spouse dies, the surviving husband or wife often will deeply feel the loss of a close confidant.

But a new study, published in the June issue of Health Psychology, finds that they may be better off in terms of their by turning to a close friend rather than a close relative.

"Friendships are discretionary while are obligatory, and past research shows that obligatory relationships can be less beneficial than discretionary relationships during times of stress," study co-author Jamila Bookwala said in a news release from Academy Communications.

Bookwala, a psychology professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., and her team tracked nearly 750 Americans—mostly older women—from 1992 to 2004. The researchers looked for connections between better and the presence of a close confidant.

Those who received emotional support from relatives didn't fare as well in terms of health as those with friends, the investigators found.

What's going on?

"Family relationships are more likely to be characterized by ambivalence than are friendships," Bookwala said. "Such ambivalence—feeling both close and bothered by the person—may occur even within confidant relationships with . This ambivalence may reduce the likelihood of health benefits from confiding in a family member."

But a close relationship with a friend "is likely to be less emotionally complex, less ambivalent," she said.

"As a result," Bookwala explained, "having a friend to confide in may be more conducive to protecting health in the face of stress, such as becoming widowed. And this may explain why having a family member to confide in resulted in no protective for those whose spouse died, but having a friend to confide in did."

Explore further: Researchers discover social integration improves lung function in elderly

More information: For more about mourning the death of a spouse, visit the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

Related Stories

Researchers discover social integration improves lung function in elderly

June 2, 2014
It is well established that being involved in more social roles, such as being married, having close friends, close family members, and belonging to social and religious groups, leads to better mental and physical health. ...

Heart disease risk linked with spouses' social support

February 6, 2014
Matters of the heart can influence actual heart health, according to new research. A study from researchers at the University of Utah shows that the ways in which your spouse is supportive—and how you support your spouse—can ...

Childhood adversity launches lifelong relationship and health disadvantage for black men

February 27, 2014
Greater childhood adversity helps to explain why black men are less healthy than white men, and some of this effect appears to operate through childhood adversity's enduring influence on the relationships black men have as ...

Negative social interactions increase hypertension risk in older adults

May 28, 2014
Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer may not be the best advice if you are 50 or older.

Infertile women want more support

April 30, 2014
Many women coping with infertility count on relatives or close friends for encouragement and assistance. But according to research at the University of Iowa, when it comes to support, women may not be receiving enough—or ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

0 comments

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.