Does the impact of bereavement vary between same and different gender partnerships? A representative national, cross-sectional study

Liadh Timmins, Alexandra Pitman, Michael King, Wei Gao, Katherine Johnson, Peihan Yu, Debbie Braybrook, Anna Roach, Steve Marshall, Elizabeth Day, Ruth Rose, Paul Clift, Kathryn Almack, Deok Hee Yi, Katherine Bristowe, Richard Harding

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Data suggest poorer bereavement outcomes for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, but this has not been estimated in population-based research. This study compared bereavement outcomes for partners of same-gender and different-gender decedents.
In this population-based, cross-sectional survey of people bereaved of a civil partner or spouse 6–10 months previously, we used adjusted logistic and linear regression to investigate outcomes of interest: (1) positive screen on Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG), (2) positive screen on General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), (3) grief intensity (ICG) and (4) psychiatric symptoms (GHQ-12).
Among 233 same-gender partners and 329 of different-gender partners, 66.1% [95% confidence interval (CI) 60.0–72.2] and 59.2% [95% CI (53.9–64.6)] respectively screened positive for complicated grief on the ICG, whilst 76.0% [95% CI (70.5–81.5)] and 69.3% [95% CI (64.3–74.3)] respectively screened positive on the GHQ-12. Same-gender bereaved partners were not significantly more likely to screen positive for complicated grief than different-gender partners [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.56, 95% CI (0.98–2.47)], p = 0.059, but same-gender bereaved partners were significantly more likely to screen for psychiatric caseness [aOR 1.67 (1.02, 2.71) p = 0.043]. We similarly found no significant association of partner gender with grief intensity [B = 1.86, 95% CI (−0.91to 4.63), p = 0.188], but significantly greater psychological distress for same-gender partners [B = 1.54, 95% CI (−0.69–2.40), p < 0.001].
Same-gender bereaved partners report significantly more psychological distress. In view of their poorer sub-clinical mental health, clinical and bereavement services should refine screening processes to identify those at risk of poor mental health outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3849-3857
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date27 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 May 2022


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