Gender Differences in the Association Between Widowhood and Depressive Symptoms Among Older Filipinos

by Maria Karlene Shawn Isla Cabaraban (2022)


The death of a spouse marks a turning point in the life course, typically involving adjustments to new social roles and economic circumstances that have repercussions on psychological well-being. Previous research in the West and in some parts of Asia have underlined its association with depressive symptoms in the surviving spouse. Gender, however, is an important factor affecting psychosocial adjustment to widowhood. This study drew from the baseline data of the Longitudinal Study of Aging and Health in the Philippines (LSAHP), a nationally representative survey of community-dwelling Filipinos aged 60 and over, to examine gender-specific patterns characterizing widowhood and its association with depressive symptoms among older Filipinos who have been married at least once in their lifetime. Results showed that not only are older females more likely to be widowed, they are also more likely to remain widowed for a longer time. As demonstrated by the multiple regression analyses, both widowhood status and widowhood duration emerge as significant correlates of depressive symptoms even after controlling for background characteristics, but with stark gender differences. Recent (less than 5 years since the conduct of the LSAHP) widowhood is associated with more severe depressive symptoms in older females but not in older males. However, both older men and women who reported being widowed longer-term (6-14 years and 15+ years) reported more severe depressive symptoms as compared to their married or cohabiting peers. These results suggest that widowhood can have enduring consequences on the lives of widows and widowers in ways that are reflected in depressive symptoms.