Socio-economic costs of bereavement in Scotland

Birrell, J., Corden, A., Macduff, C., Newsom, C., Petrie, D., Schut, H., Skår, S., Stephen, A., Tseng, F., Wang, S. & Wilson, S. (2013) Main Study Report, 1 March 2013. [SLS]

Other information:
Executive Summary:

The Socio-Economic Costs of Bereavement in Scotland (SECOB) research study was funded by the Scottish Government Health Directorates in late 2010 as part of ongoing work to inform national policy on bereavement and bereavement care practice. The project aimed to: a) articulate the likely nature and scope of the impact of bereavement on social and economic aspects of life for Scottish citizens as evidenced in relevant literature; b) seek to estimate the socio-economic costs of bereavement in an emergent sub-set of key aspects, and c) develop methodological approaches that will enhance capacity for large-scale research into the socio-economic impact of bereavement.

Literature scoping and review identified a range of relevant areas of potential impact, and an analytical model was devised to help understand their potential relationships. New research was undertaken to explore impacts in more depth in the areas of health, income and employment. Analysis of data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study found that spousal bereavement is associated not only with increased mortality but also with longer hospital stays. Our research indicates that this increase in hospital stay is a hidden and latent impact of bereavement which translates into a recurring additional annual cost for NHS Scotland of around £20 million. The cost of consultations in primary care that are specifically labelled as bereavement-related was estimated to be around £2.2 million annually. However, we suggest that this is likely to be a considerable under-estimation that recognises only the tip of the iceberg. Findings from the British Household Panel Survey, a UK wide dataset, showed that the bereaved were significantly less likely to be employed in the year of bereavement, and two years after. However, the BHPS data also showed no significant differences in income between the bereaved and matched controls in the 10 years pre and post bereavement. Through use of innovative methods, the study has yielded useful insights into some of the socio-economic impacts of bereavement in Scotland, but more research is clearly needed to obtain more comprehensive understandings.

Available online: Main Study Report,
Download output document: Full report (PDF 362kB)

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