OBJECTIVE: Delineation of factors that predict depressive symptom
severity 6 or more months after the loss of a spouse may help identify
individuals at risk for persistent depressive symptoms. In this study,
sociodemographic and clinical correlates of depressive symptom severity
were examined among widows 6 to 16 months after the deaths of their
husbands. METHOD: The 50 subjects were identified from the Allegheny
County, Penn., death records and were interviewed by telephone. The authors
examined the relationship of depressive symptoms to sociodemographic
variables, perceptions of sex role and quality of social supports, level of
support sought for bereavement, and premorbid personal and family
psychiatric history. RESULTS: Widows with persistent depressive symptoms
were less likely to have worked outside the home, had less favorable
perceptions of their interpersonal support systems, were more likely to
have had previous psychiatric disorders, and were likely to have sought
professional help in response to their bereavement. In a multivariate
model, only premorbid psychiatric history and the perception of
interpersonal support system made independent contributions to the
prediction of Beck Depression Inventory scores above the normal range.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest several factors that may identify women
at risk of protracted psychiatric morbidity after their husbands' deaths.
They also suggest that the persistence of depressive symptoms an average of
1 year after the loss of a spouse may reflect a pathological condition
rather than normal grieving.