Bolton JM, Au W, Walld R, Chateau D, Martens PJ, Leslie WD, Enns MW, Sareen J
Am. J. Epidemiol. 2014 Jan;179(2):177-85
Motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) are the leading cause of death in young people in North America. The effects of such deaths on parents have not been systematically studied. Administrative data sets were used to identify all parents (n = 1,458) who had an offspring die in a MVC between 1996 and 2008 in the province of Manitoba, Canada. They were matched to general population control parents who had not had offspring die from any sudden cause during the study period. Generalized estimating equations were used to compare the rates of physician-diagnosed mental and physical disorders, social factors, and treatment utilization in the 2 parent groups in the 2 years before and after offspring death, with adjustment for confounding factors. The risk of depression among bereaved parents almost tripled (adjusted prevalence ratio = 2.85, 95% confidence interval: 2.44, 3.33; P < 0.001) during the 2 years after death of an offspring. Significant increases in the risk of anxiety disorders (adjusted prevalence ratio = 1.45, 95% confidence interval: 1.26, 1.67; P < 0.001) were also observed. When compared with nonbereaved parents, bereaved parents had significant increases in the risks of depression (P < 0.001), anxiety disorders (P < 0.001), marital break-up (P = 0.015), and physician visits for mental illness (P < 0.001) in the post-death period. In conclusion, parents who lose an offspring in a MVC experience considerable mental illness and marital disruption.