The Shock of Widowhood on the Eve of Old Age: Male and Female Experiences

By Christiane Delbès, Joëlle Gaymu, O. Chimere-Dan


In France today nearly 4 million people are widowed. This marital status is a characteristic of the elderly but also of women: 84% of the widowed are widows.
The present longitudinal study describes the context of widowhood between ages 62 and 75 and the subsequent reorganization of life, on the basis of a comparison between widowed and married respondents. It shows how the adaptation to widowhood can be more or less difficult for men and women. The main areas of retired life (family and leisure activities) are examined. A substantial part of the study focuses on the psychological consequences of widowhood.
All the indicators suggest that the widows’ life is more difficult. They have a more negative view of life and of retirement, suffer more frequently from loneliness, and are more subject to depressive tendencies. Their lesser involvement in leisure activities and their greater social isolation show how much they are disadvantaged.
Although excess mortality following the loss of a spouse is much higher for men than for women, those who avoid death appear to adapt better than women to the loss of their spouse.

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