Death of a family member affects almost everyone. If death is because of a suicide, it affects the spouse more than anyone else.
People bereaved by the suicide of a spouse are at increased risk for mental and physical disorders, suicidal behavior, death and adverse social events, according to a nationwide study based on registry data conducted in Denmark and published online by JAMA Psychiatry.
‘Those who lose a spouse by suicide have higher risks of developing mental health disorders, suicidal behaviors and even death risk.’
The study by Annette Erlangsen, Ph.D., of the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Centre, Copenhagen, and coauthors, compared people bereaved by spousal suicide with the general population and people bereaved by spousal death of any other manner.
The study population included almost 3.5 million men (4,814 of whom were bereaved by spousal suicide) and more than 3.5 million women (10,793 of whom who were bereaved by spousal suicide).
Some of the findings were:
- Spouses bereaved by a partner's suicide had higher risk than the general population of developing mental health disorders within five years of the loss.
- Spouses bereaved by a partner's suicide had elevated risk for developing physical disorders, such as cirrhosis and sleep disorders, which may be attributed to unhealthy coping styles.
- Spouses bereaved by a partner's suicide were more likely to use more sick leave benefits, disability pension funds and municipal support than the general population.
- Compared with spouses bereaved by other manners of death for a partner, those bereaved by suicide had higher risks for developing mental health disorders, suicidal behaviors and death risk.
The authors note most people bereaved by suicide do not experience health complications.
"Bereavement following suicide constitutes a psychological stressor and remains a public health burden. More proactive outreach and linkage to support mechanisms is needed for people bereaved by spousal suicide to help them navigate their grief," the article concludes.