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Coping With Spousal Loss: Potential Buffering Effects of Self-Reported Helping Behavior

The present study examined the role of self-reported helping behavior in attenuating the helper's depression following spousal loss. Using archival data from the Changing Lives of Older Couples sample (N = 289), the study shows that among bereaved participants who had experienced high loss-related grief, helping behavior (providing instrumental support to others) was associated with an accelerated decline in depressive symptoms for the helper from 6 months to 18 months following spousal loss. This relationship between giving help and recovery from depression was independent of support received, as well as measured health, and interpersonal and demographic factors. Implications of these results for theoretical approaches to the study of close relationships and well-being are discussed. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]