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Type: Journal article
Title: Relationships between bereavement and cognitive functioning in older adults
Author: Ward, L.
Mathias, J.
Hitchings, S.
Citation: Gerontology, 2007; 53(6):362-372
Publisher: Karger
Issue Date: 2007
ISSN: 0304-324X
Statement of
L. Ward, J.L. Mathias, S.E. Hitchings
Abstract: <h4>Background</h4>Bereavement is often associated with increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. The question of whether grief is associated with cognitive deficits in older adults remains largely unanswered. Although Xavier and coworkers (see text) found preliminary evidence that grief, in the absence of depression, impacted on memory in a sample of the oldest-old in Brazil, the impact of bereavement on cognitive functioning, independent of the effects of mood, has not been adequately examined.<h4>Objective</h4>To replicate and expand on the work of Xavier and colleagues to examine whether there is an association between bereavement due to spousal loss and performance in a range of cognitive functioning domains in older adults, independent of the effects of depression, stress, and anxiety.<h4>Methods</h4>Samples of bereaved (n = 25) and non-bereaved (n = 25) participants, who were aged between 65 and 80 years and who were matched for age, gender, education, premorbid intellectual functioning, and general cognitive ability, were compared on a battery of tests designed to assess attention, verbal fluency, memory, and visuospatial ability. Depression, anxiety, and stress were also assessed, as were the presence of complicated grief and the adequacy of social support in the bereaved group. Cognitive tests that differed between the groups and correlated with depression, stress, or anxiety were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression.<h4>Results</h4>The bereaved groups were more depressed, anxious, and stressed, and performed more poorly on tests assessing attention, information-processing speed, and verbal fluency. With the exception of the attentional switching task, the cognitive measures on which the groups differed were correlated with mood. When mood was controlled statistically, the group differences in these cognitive tests disappeared. Twenty-eight percent of the bereaved group met the criteria for a diagnosis of complicated grief. This subgroup was younger than the other bereaved participants and had higher levels of stress.<h4>Conclusion</h4>The evidence suggests that grief associated with death of a spouse has limited associations with cognition beyond those that would be expected to occur as a result of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Keywords: bereavement; grief; cognition; ageing; cognitive; functioning
Rights: © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel
RMID: 0020073073
DOI: 10.1159/000104787
Appears in Collections:Psychology publications

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