The Impact of Stressful Life Events after Bereavement: A Nationwide Cross-sectional Survey



      Bereaved family members sometimes experience distress due to stressful life events. However, the effects of this distress on depression and grief remain unclear.


      To clarify the degree of distress due to postbereavement stressful life events, its associated factors, especially social isolation, and its effects on major depressive disorder (MDD) and complicated grief (CG) risks among bereaved family members of patients with cancer.


      This cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted in 2018 as part of the J-HOPE4 study. We recruited 1740 bereaved family members of patients with cancer who died from July to August of 2018. We assessed distress due to postbereavement stressful life events with the Bereavement Secondary Stressor Scale, social isolation with the Lubben Social Network Scale Short-Form, and the MDD and CG risk with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and Brief Grief Questionnaire, respectively.


      Among the 913 (52.5%) respondents, 88%, 57%, 46%, 28%, and 19% experienced distress due to incidental tasks, daily life difficulties, financial problems, problems with other people, and deterioration of family relationships, respectively. More distress was associated with higher risks of MDD (odds ratio [OR] = 2.5, P < 0.01) and CG (OR = 2.5, P < 0.01). Social isolation and specific backgrounds were associated with more distress in response to stressful life events.


      Most family members experienced distress due to stressful life events, which were risk factors for MDD and CG. Assessing risk factors for maladaptation to post-bereavement life changes and enhancing readiness to adapt to them is important.

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