The business of death: a qualitative study of financial concerns of widowed older women

Michelle DiGiacomo, Joanne Lewis, Jane Phillips, Marie Nolan, Patricia M. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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The feminisation of ageing and increasing number of widowed women in contemporary society has significant implications. Older women are at risk of poor health, social, and economic outcomes upon widowhood. The aim of the study was to describe women’s experiences in the period soon after their husbands’ death, including their financial issues and concerns, and the ways in which these experiences impacted on the transition to widowhood late in life.

This was a longitudinal study using serial in-depth semi-structured interviews with 21 community-dwelling women over the age of 65 in Australia. Verbatim transcripts underwent Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis.

Thematic analysis revealed: 1) administrative burden increases vulnerability; 2) gender roles impact on transitions; and 3) financial adjustments render housing insecurity and health risk. High administrative burden within the context of significant grief and mourning was a defining feature of the early bereavement period. Complicated protracted administrative processes, insensitive interactions, and reminders of loss contributed to distress, anxiety and feelings of demoralisation. Several women identified assumption of household financial management as the most difficult aspect of coping with their husband’s death.

Older women may have unmet needs for assistance with administrative, financial, and legal issues immediately following spousal death and potentially for years afterward. Lack of familiarity and absence of instrumental support with financial and legal issues signal the need for policy reform, resources to improve financial literacy in women throughout the life course, increased advocacy, and consideration of different support and service models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Women's Health
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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