Mortality, cancer incidence, and survival in parents after bereavement

Limor Schorr, Ayala Burger, Hagit Hochner, Ronit Calderon, Orly Manor, Yechiel Friedlander*, Gabriella M. Lawrence, Ora Paltiel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: The study objective was to investigate whether child loss is related to mortality, cancer incidence, and cancer survival in parents. Methods: We used a population-based birth cohort (1964-1976) in Jerusalem and ascertained mortality (average follow-up of 39.1 years) and any cancer (average follow-up of 35.6 years) among parents who lost a child (2838 mothers and 2532 fathers) and among nonbereaved parents (38,212 mothers and 36,433 fathers). We also assessed mortality among parents with cancer. Time-dependent Cox models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Results: Overall mortality rates among bereaved parents were modestly increased when compared with nonbereaved parents (HR = 1.18, 95% CI: 1.05-1.32 in mothers; HR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.01-1.20 in fathers). Hazard models indicated a significant relationship between bereavement and deaths from coronary heart disease in mothers (HR = 1.90, 95% CI: 1.23-2.95) and circulatory causes in both parents (HR = 1.69; 95% CI: 1.22-2.34 in mothers and HR = 1.25; 95% CI: 1.02-1.54 in fathers). Bereavement was not associated with parental risk of cancer disease and with survival from cancer. The association between bereavement and parental overall mortality was similar in the different parental sociodemographic characteristics. We observed a decrease in HRs for parental mortality associated with bereavement, with increasing time since the death of the child (HRs = 9-10, 0-3 years; HRs = 0.9-1.0, 9+ years; Pheterogeneity ≤3 × 10-32). A similar decrease in HRs was observed for parental survival from cancer (HRs = 6.7-8.7, 0-3 years; HRs = 0.9-1.0, 9+ years). Conclusions: Our study suggests that child loss was associated with slightly increased risk of all-cause and circulatory mortality in parents but not with incidence of cancer and cancer survival. The considerable increased parental mortality during a short period after child loss support the involvement of pathways related to psychological stress.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Cancer
  • Mortality
  • Parental bereavement


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