ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to examine whether the impact of conjugal loss on depression is greater in the presence of vascular risk factors (CVRFs) (stress vulnerability hypothesis), or whether conjugal loss and CVRFs are independent predictors of depression following spousal loss (independent pathways hypothesis).
The current study is a secondary data analysis of the Changing Lives of Older Couples database, which is a study of older widowed persons. One thousand five hundred thirty-two participants engaged in a baseline interview, and interviews were conducted 6, 18, and 48 months after the death of a spouse.
Spousal loss is a significant predictor of depressive symptoms at six months after the death. At 18- and 48-months postloss, CVRFs significantly predict depression onset, however no interactions between the two variables were seen at any of the three follow-up waves. Looking longitudinally from baseline to each follow-up wave, the widows with low CVRFs were at greater risk for elevated depression at six-months postloss than the non-widows with low vascular risk, and all widows were at a greater risk for elevated depression at 18-months postloss. At 48-month follow-up, those with high CVRFs who had not lost a spouse were at significantly greater risk for depression than the non-widows with low CVRFs.
Results do not provide support for the stress-vulnerability hypothesis and suggest that loss and CVRFs are independent predictors of depression, whose effects vary with the passage of time.
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 08/2007; 15(8):690-8. · 3.64 Impact Factor