Ashton Verdery: COVID-19, bereavement, and downstream health challenges
April 1 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
On April 1, 2022, Ashton Verdery, Associate Professor of Sociology & Demography at Pennsylvania State University, will present “COVID-19, bereavement, and downstream health challenges” as part of the Carolina Population Center’s 2021-2022 Interdisciplinary Research Seminar Series.
Dr. Verdery’s research focuses on social networks: how and why people are socially connected to each other and the consequences of those connections. Within this broad area, he is especially interested in demographic processes, specifically how population dynamics shape family, kinship, and social networks and how those networks in turn affect health and other population processes. Dr. Verdery is a graduate of CPC’s Training Program.
Abstract: Millions around the world are grieving the loss of loved ones from COVID-19, but prior research has not tested whether COVID-19-related bereavement presents unique health risks compared to other forms of bereavement. If bereavement from COVID-19 is more strongly associated with health challenges than bereavement more generally, large cohorts of newly bereaved individuals may create lasting population health challenges in heavily affected countries. Using population-based data and a pseudo-experimental, difference-in-difference research design, we test whether associations between family bereavement and depression differ when bereavement is caused by COVID-19 compared to other causes. Consistent with past scholarship, we find strong associations between family bereavement and depression and that self-reported depression appears to have decreased during the pandemic. However, our difference-in-difference estimates indicate that experiencing COVID-19-related family bereavement is more strongly associated with depression than non-COVID-19 forms of bereavement, a finding that is robust across numerous specifications related to duration since exposure and type of family member lost, but that shows some variation across subpopulations by gender, age, and severity of local COVID-19 mortality shock. This research raises new concerns about the long-run implications of the COVID-19 pandemic’s secondary impacts, further underscores the health risks associated with bereavement more generally, and highlights how acute mortality shocks of different sorts can create cascading population health challenges. Coauthors: Haowei Wang, Emily Smith-Greenaway, Shawn Bauldry, and Rachel Margolis.
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