, Volume 85, Issue 3, pp 499-513

“The shock of widowhood”? Evidence from an Italian population (Parma, 1989–2000)

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Abstract

The purpose of our study is to assess the influence of socio-demographic factors on overall and cause-specific mortality of elderly people of Parma aged 65. In particular, the paper aims at exploring the relation between mortality and living arrangement in association with marital status. Data were obtained from the General Registry Office of Parma and from the death certificates issued by the Local Health District from 1989 to 2000. A logistic regression was performed using longitudinal data. In the male population, living alone and being never married appears to be the worst condition, while living with the wife repsresents a caring situation. In the female population, the major risk of death is associated to living with others than a spouse, while a reduced risk was detected for widows living alone. This was a common and shared result for both overall mortality and many of the causes of death here considered. The condition of widows and widowers living alone does not appear to constitute a particularly serious risk among the elderly population of Parma. Yet, in the female population the association between living alone and the status of widow seems playing a protective role. This result should be interpreted in the light of the social policy of services and support for the elderly pursued by local authorities.