NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– Women who lose their husbands experience less stress than women who have living spouses, a new study suggests.
Previous research has suggested that marriage has a positive impact on health, heart attack risk, and depression, however the latest research suggests women may actually get healthier after becoming widows, as reported by The Telegraph.
“Widows cope better than widowers with the stress deriving from the loss of a partner,” lead researcher Dr. Caterina Trevisan, of the University of Padova, told The Telegraph.
The research also suggests men are more reliant upon their wives. Trevisan said for men, having a wife may bring benefits regarding household management and medical needs.
“Since women generally have a longer lifespan than men, married women may also suffer from the effects of caregiver burden, since they often devote themselves to caring for their husband in later life,” she said.
The same study suggests single women feel less stressed than single men, experience greater job satisfaction, and have a lower risk of social isolation through strong relationships with friends and family.
“Consistently with this picture, the higher educational level and better economic status seen among the single women in our study may well reflect a social condition that would promote a greater psychological and physical well-being,” Trevisan said.
Widows deal with the loss of a spouse better than widowers, according to the study.
“Many studies have shown that women are less vulnerable to depression than men in widowhood, probably because they have greater coping resources and are better able to express their emotions,” she said. “These aspects may help to explain the lower risk of exhaustion seen in single women, who are likewise more socially integrated than single men, and consequently less exposed to frailty.”
The study included almost 2,000 individuals over the age of 65, including 733 men and 1,154 women.
The findings suggest that widows were 23 percent less likely to become frail than married women.
“Unlike the results seen for male gender, widowed women showed a significantly lower risk of frailty than married women, with a lower incidence of unintentional weight loss or low daily physical activity levels,” Trevisan said. “Our results partially contrast with previous reports of a weaker, but still protective effect of marriage on mortality, health status, and depression in women, as in men.”
Researchers say more studies are needed to see whether social structure aspects may have impacted the findings.