Health in Marriage: Policy Implications of Spousal Illness and Death

Award Year:
Nicholas Christakis
Family Health, Social Support
There are major gaps in our understanding of how morbidity and mortality in one spouse affect the health and life of the other. Our rapidly aging population coupled with increased chronic disease, will likely result in serious health consequences for elderly individuals with ill or dying spouses. In his project, Dr. Christakis conducts an analysis based on observation, theory, and policy of the relationship between marriage and health. His conceptual framework draws on three related theories stress as a source of illness, the role of social support in mitigating disease and mortality, and social capital. Several health policy questions are addressed including: 1) when and how support services might best be delivered to newly-widowed individuals; 2) how to identify individuals at greatest risk; and 3) how marital health effects should be factored into the planning of health care services for the elderly.