Harper M, O'Connor R & O'Carroll R (2011) Increased mortality in parents bereaved in the first year of their child's life. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, 1 (3), pp. 306-309. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjspcare-2011-000025
Objective: To identify the relative risk (RR) of mortality in bereaved parents compared with non-bereaved counterparts.
Design: Retrospective data linkage study.
Setting: United Kingdom, 1971-2006.
Participants: A random sample from death registrations (5%) of parents who had a live birth where the infant lived beyond its first year of life (non-bereaved parents) and parents who had experienced a stillbirth or the death of a child in its first year of life (bereaved parents) between 1971 and 2006.
Main outcome measures: Death or widowhood of the parent.
Results: Bereaved parents in Scotland (n=738) were more than twice as likely to die in the first 15 years after their child's death than non-bereaved parents (n=50 132), p<0.005. Bereaved mothers in England and Wales (n=481) were more than four times as likely to die in the first 15 years after their child's birth than non-bereaved parents (n=30 956), p<0.001. The mortality risk for bereaved mothers compared with non-bereaved mothers, followed up for 25 years after death, was 1.5 (bereaved n=745, non-bereaved n=36 434), p<0.005. When followed up for 35 years, the risk of mortality for bereaved mothers (n=1120) was 1.2 times that of non-bereaved mothers (n=36 062), p<0.005.
Conclusions: Bereaved parents who experience stillbirth or infant death have markedly increased mortality compared with non-bereaved parents, up to 25 years (mean) after the death of their child. However, the RR reduces over time.
BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care: Volume 1, Issue 3