Widowhood, Gender and Depression in Later Life
Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging University of Mannheim Mannheim, Germany
Objectives: I investigate the gender-specific effect of widowhood on depression among older people within a European context. So far the literature reveals mixed results with some studies indicating worse mental health of men after bereavement, others showing that women are more severely affected by widowhood and still other studies conclude that there are no gender differences in depression after bereavement at all. Methods: I estimate fixed-effect regressions using the first 2 waves of the ?Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe? (SHARE). The SHARE data consists of more then 43,000 respondents in 14 European countries; for the analysis in this paper I analyse a balanced panel of 7,393 respondents who were married in wave 1 and are either continuously married or widowed in wave 2. Results: Respondents, who experienced bereavement between the two waves, report significantly more depressive symptoms than those continuously married. There is a gender-specific effect of widowhood, pointing to the direction that widowhood constitutes a more severe threat to the mental health of men, but this effect is not significant. This effect does also not differ among the different countries in the sample. After holding constant a variety of control variables, among them financial problems, the effect of widowhood on mental health disappears. Widowed persons who report a happy marriage in wave 1 show more symptoms of depression, widowed persons who reported being a caregiver for their partner in wave 1 report less symptoms of depression, but both effects turn out not to be statistically significant.