Hospitalization for Mental Illness among Parents after the Death of a Child

Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Central Jutland, Denmark
New England Journal of Medicine (Impact Factor: 55.87). 04/2005; 352(12):1190-6. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa033160
Source: PubMed


The loss of a child is considered one of the most stressful events in the life of a parent. We hypothesized that parental bereavement increases the risk of hospital admission for a psychiatric disorder, especially for affective disorders.
We studied a cohort of 1,082,503 persons identified from national registers in Denmark who were born between 1952 and 1999 and had at least one child under 18 years of age during the follow-up period, from 1970 to 1999. Parents who lost a child during follow-up were categorized as "bereaved" from the date of death of the child.
As compared with parents who did not lose a child, parents who lost a child had an overall relative risk of a first psychiatric hospitalization for any disorder of 1.67 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.53 to 1.83). Bereaved mothers had a higher relative risk of being hospitalized for any psychiatric disorder than bereaved fathers (relative risks, 1.78 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.60 to 1.98] and 1.38 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.17 to 1.63], respectively; P value for interaction, 0.01). The relative risks of hospitalization specifically for affective disorders were 1.91 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.59 to 2.30) and 1.61 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.15 to 2.27) for bereaved mothers and fathers, respectively. Among mothers, the relative risk of being hospitalized for any psychiatric disorder was highest during the first year after the death of the child but remained significantly elevated five years or more after the death.
The risk of psychiatric hospitalization was increased among parents, especially mothers, who lost a child.

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    • "For example, many parents experience a child's death as an unnatural violation of the life cycle, representing the loss of connection to the future and unfulfilled dreams and plans [5] [6]. The grief that follows may never go away, causing physical, emotional, and mental health consequences that can be debilitating for months or years [6] [7] [8] [9]. Sequelae of bereavement include increased risk of morbidity and mortality [10] [11] [12] [13]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Grief following child loss is profoundly destabilizing with serious long-term repercussions for bereaved parents. Employed parents may need time away from work to deal with this loss.OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to reflect upon the ways labour policies and practices respond to parental bereavement.METHODS: Critical discourse analysis was used to examine labour policies and practices related to employment leave for bereaved parents in Canada. Results were compared to international labour standards.RESULTS: Universally, employment policies provide only for the practical issues of bereavement. Commonly, leave is three days, unpaid, and meant to enable ceremonial obligations. Policies do not acknowledge the long-term suffering caused by grief or the variable intensity of different kinds of loss. Managerial, moral, normative and neoliberal values embedded in these policies efface the intensely personal experience of grief, thereby leaving employees at risk for serious health and workplace safety issues.CONCLUSIONS: Bereavement leave currently understands grief as a generic, time-limited state with instrumental tasks and ceremonial obligations. In contrast, research characterizes responses to child loss as intense, highly personal experiences for which healing and recovery can take years. This disconnect is especially problematic when viewed through the lens of employee wellbeing, reintegration and workplace productivity.
    Work 09/2014; 50(3). DOI:10.3233/WOR-141957 · 0.52 Impact Factor
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    • "The trauma of losing a family member to suicide poses risk that survivors will experience complicated grief and long-term psychological morbidity (Kessing et al. 2003; Li et al. 2005; Groot et al. 2006). Adequate professional intervention might reduce this risk, but the development of evidence-based practice has been delayed by the lack of evidence-based knowledge. "
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    Psychological Medicine 07/2013; 44(16):1-12. DOI:10.1017/S0033291713001670 · 5.94 Impact Factor
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    • "Although both parents suffer greatly from their child's death, mothers often experience greater grief, depression, trauma symptoms, and PTSD (Jind, Elklit, & Christiansen, 2010; Li, et al., 2005) and for a longer time than fathers (Sirkia, Saarinen-Pihkala, & Hovi, 2000). Meert and team (2011) reported that parents' complicated grief symptoms were high 6 months after their child's PICU death, decreased between 6 and 18 months, but persisted for some time. "
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    Nursing outlook 10/2012; 60(6). DOI:10.1016/j.outlook.2012.08.007 · 1.59 Impact Factor
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