The death of a child is always wrenching, but a new study paints a particularly troubling picture of its aftermath.
Researchers found a mother has a 133 percent increased risk of dying in the first two years following the death of a child.
Researchers William Evans, Ph.D., a health and labor economist at the University of Notre Dame, and health economist Javier Espinosa, Ph.D., of the Rochester Institute of Technology, studied 69,224 mothers aged 20 to 50 for nine years.
The investigators tracked the mortality of children even after they had left the household. Experts say this is the first study of its kind using a large, nationally representative U.S. data source.
Investigators discovered the heightened mortality (within the first two years following the death of a child) occurs regardless of the age of the child at the time of death. Moreover, the heightened risk for mortality was not reduced by household income, a mother’s education, family size or the cause of the child’s death.
In the study, researched followed women who are married (84 percent), white (87 percent) and non-Hispanic (91 percent). Slightly more than half the mothers were between the ages of 20 and 34.
Approximately one-half had a high school education, and one-third had some college education or a college degree. Less than 20 percent had less than a high school education.
While this study focused on maternal mortality, earlier studies from Denmark discovered that parents who experienced the death of a child had a higher risk of first-time hospitalization for a psychiatric disorder than parents who did not lose a child.
Danish researchers also found that mothers had a higher relative risk of mental disorders than fathers. The risk of a mental disorder was highest during the first year yet remained significantly elevated for five years or more.
The study is published in the journal Economics and Human Biology.
Source: University of Notre Dame