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Widowhood a Risk Factor for Cognitive Decline

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry; ePub 2018 Mar 26; Shin, et al

Widowhood status accelerated cognitive decline over time among widowed older adults, a recent study found. These findings suggest that extra support is needed to monitor cognitive functioning for those experiencing widowhood. In a longitudinal analysis of existing secondary data, researchers evaluated data from the 1996–2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Participants included 6,766 individuals (28,420 observations) aged ≥50 who responded to all questions. They found:

  • Results from growth-curve models show that after controlling for covariates, widowhood status was related to cognitive decline.
  • There was also a linear relationship between time since spousal loss and cognitive decline.
  • Conditional upon spousal bereavement status, higher education and having at least 1 living sibling were found to be protective factors against cognitive decline.


Shin SH, Kim G, Park S. Widowhood status as a risk factor for cognitive decline among older adults. [Published online ahead of print March 26, 2018]. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2018.03.013.