Healthy Aging Research

Healthy Aging Research
Open Access

ISSN: 2261-7434



Does the death of a spouse increase subjective well-being: An assessment in a population of adults with neurological illness

James B. Wade, Robert P. Hart, James H. Wade, Jonathan Bekenstein, Catherine Ham, Jasmohan S. Bajaj

Background: Studies suggest that people can experience personal growth following major life challenges. We explored the hypothesis that widowed individuals would benefit from adversarial or post-traumatic growth and experience greater levels of happiness than other marital groups.

Methods: Fifty-four patients suffering from neurological illness were analyzed to clarify whether marital status was a determinant factor in subjective well-being (SWB).

Results: After controlling for estimated decline from premorbid intellectual ability, level of physical activity, age, and ethnicity, a strong association was noted between marital status and happiness. Widowed subjects experienced greater happiness than married patients. SWB in response to neurological illness was the same for widows and widowers. Only those individuals whose spouse had died experienced greater levels of happiness in the face of a lifestyle-threatening condition.

Conclusions: Loss of a spouse can cause the widowed partner to develop adaptive strategies to cope with future lifestyle stressors.