Effects of marital closeness on the transition from caregiving to widowhood

Rachel A. Pruchno, Francine P. Cartwright, Maureen Wilson-Genderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the effects of marital closeness on indicators of well-being (depressive symptoms, grief, and relief) as spouses transition from the role of caregiver to that of widowed person. Methods: 118 spouses of persons with end stage renal disease were interviewed prior to and after the death of the patient. Spouses reported on marital closeness, multiple indicators of pre-death strain as reflected by subjective health, depressive symptoms, caregiving burden, and caregiving satisfaction, as well as post-loss feelings of grief, depression, and relief. Results: Hierarchical regressions indicated that post-loss grief was predicted by gender (b = 0.32, p 0.001), self-reported health (b = -0.28, p 0.01), marital closeness (0.22, p 0.05), and pre-loss depressive symptoms (b = 0.19, p 0.10). Caregiver burden (b = 0.28, p 0.05) and marital closeness (b = -0.41, p 0.001) before the death, predicted relief from the caregiver role post-loss. Subjective health (b = -0.21, p 0.05) and pre-loss depressive symptoms (b = 0.47, p 0.001) predicted change in depressive symptoms over time. Conclusion: These data highlight differences in the experiences of grief, relief, and depressive symptoms and suggest that marital closeness plays a central role. Results are interpreted in terms of theory regarding marital quality. Implications for interventions to improve the lives of caregivers and newly widowed spouses are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-817
Number of pages10
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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