When one spouse passes away, his or her characteristics continue to be linked with the surviving spouse’s well-being, said a study.
“The people we care about continue to influence our quality of life even when they are gone,” said lead researcher Kyle Bourassa from the University of Arizona.
The study also indicates that this link between the deceased spouse and surviving spouse is as strong as that between partners who are both living. “We found that a person’s quality of life is as interwoven with and dependent on their deceased spouse’s earlier quality of life as it is with a person they may see every day,” Bourassa said in a paper appeared in the journal Psychological Science.
In previous work, Bourassa and colleagues had found evidence of interdependence between partners’ quality of life, finding that a person’s cognitive functioning or health influences not only their own well-being, but also the well-being of their partner. Bourassa and colleagues wondered whether this interdependence continues even when one of the partners passes away.
The researchers took data from the multinational Study of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) — an ongoing research project with over 80,000 ageing adult participants across 18 European countries and Israel.
Specifically, they examined data from 546 couples in which one partner had died during the study period, and data from 2,566 couples in which both partners were still living.
Intriguingly, the results revealed interdependence between partners even when one partner died during the study.
“Even though we lose the people we love, they remain with us — at least in part,” Bourassa said.