BACKGROUND: 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.
METHODS: 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).
RESULTS: 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].
CONCLUSIONS: 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.