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February 10, 1989

Useful Advice to Patient Whose Spouse Has Died: 'Establish a Routine, Mingle With Other People'

JAMA. 1989;261(6):814-815. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420060014004

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A STUDY of persons recently widowed finds that it may be possible to identify, as early as 3 weeks after the spouse's death, those most likely to remain severely depressed a year later.

For the physician, it offers data to back up common-sense advice to patients who have lost a spouse. "They should force themselves to get into a routine and get out [with other people]," says principal investigator Joseph Flaherty, MD, professor of psychiatry and community health at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Timekeeper Theory  The Chicago study is one of three under way across the country to begin testing out facets of a new theory of the etiology of depression—one that weaves together the insights of biologic and psychosocial research into the disorder. Known as the "social zeitgeber" [timekeeper] theory, it posits that, in susceptible individuals, abrupt changes in the schedule of daily events and tasks may set