Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Are there gender differences in prolonged grief trajectories? A registry-sampled cohort study

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Research suggests variation in how grief develops across time, and gender may account for some of this variation. However, gender differences in growth patterns of the newly codified ICD-11 prolonged grief disorder (PGD) are unknown. This study examined gender-specific variances in grief trajectories in a registry-sampled cohort of 857 spousal bereaved individuals (69.8% female). Participants completed self-report questionnaires of PGD symptoms at 2, 6, and 11 months post-loss. Using Growth Mixture Modeling, four PGD trajectories emerged: resilient characterized by low symptoms (64.4%), moderate-stable characterized by moderate symptoms (20.4%), recovery characterized by elevated symptoms showing a decrease over time (8.4%), and prolonged grief characterized by continuous elevated symptoms (6.8%). Similar proportions of men and women comprised the four trajectories. Gender influenced the parameter estimates of the prolonged grief trajectory as men evidenced more baseline symptoms (higher intercept) than women did and a decreasing symptom-level (negative slope), while women showed symptom-increase over time (positive slope). The prolonged grief trajectory captured the largest proportion of probable PGD cases in both genders. Low optimism and low mental health predicted membership in this class. Altogether, the absolute majority of both men and women followed a low-symptom resilient trajectory. While a comparable minority followed a high-symptom prolonged grief trajectory, men and women within this trajectory expressed varying symptom development. Men expressed prolonged grief as an acute, decreasing reaction, whereas women showed an adjourned, mounting grief reaction. This study suggests that gender may influence symptom development in highly distressed individuals across early bereavement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Pages (from-to)168-175
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

    Research areas

  • Bereavement, Gender, Growth mixture modeling, Prolonged grief, Trajectories

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