School’s in for Summer!

It may not be a hot summer, but it will be a busy one. We’ve plans for a lot of travel, summer schools, data analysis and……hopefully some sunbathing.

Since last November, we’ve been speaking to professionals working in bereavement care, reading up on other projects and studies that have looked at bereavement, mental health and mortality, and we’ve been working hard to get the datasets ready for analysis. Next month, we hope to get the last piece of preparatory work completed. We’re going to link information on prescriptions to the NILS database, after that, we’re ready to begin the main phase of analysis.

We also hope that next month will be the start of the summer; while the weather may or may not get any better, the Grief Study team will be taking a break from working on the study, and spending some time travelling. Not just travelling to Glastonbury or NSx Festival (but we’re going to those too), we’ll be travelling to brush up on our research methods, present some of our work so far, and we’re organising some courses too.

On the 3rd, 4th and 5th of June, John and Aideen will be travelling to the University of Bristol to attend a short course; Rates and survival analysis: poisson, cox and parametric survival models . This course will be particularly useful to help prepare us for answering research question 5 ‘To what extent does bereavement confer an increased risk of mortality?’. These statistical models are used to look at events that occur at certain points in time; we can use them to study the time between bereavement and mortality and how this relates to other characteristics. For example, we may expect that people in their 70s or 80s, after their spouse or partner dies may be more likely to die themselves soon after than someone in their 40s or 50s who becomes bereaved. Survival analysis can help us understand the difference between mortality after bereavement that is due to old age, and mortality that is due to the emotional effect of the loss – we’re testing the idea that people can die of a ‘broken heart’. As we also have information on mental health, we can look more closely at the idea of how much psychological pain affects mortality.

On the 6th and 7th June, Mark will be travelling to the British Library in London for an ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative event. This is a chance for the research teams that were funded by the ESRC to meet, share ideas, and discuss next steps for their studies and future research.

On the 13th and 14th June, Mark and some colleagues from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work will be visiting the Life Course Institute at the National University of Ireland in Galway. The work of the Institute is of relevance to the Grief Study, in that it aims to understand how events at one point in the life cycle can affect individuals across the life course. NUI Galway will also host the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre International Conference.

At the end of June, Mark will be heading back to the University of Bristol, for a course on Advanced Epidemiological and Statistical Methods. In particular, this course will look at propensity scoring methods, this may enable us to look at the effect of bereavement on mental health outcomes for smaller subgroups – such as people bereaved at a young age, or bereaved due to rare incidents such as violence – and overcome some of the problems that regression and survival analysis models may face when dealing with small numbers of individuals to study.

In July, the ICCR will be organising a course on dealing with Missing Data in quantitative analysis. Mark has been working with the Quantitative Research Methods with Children and Young People Special Interest Group at Queen’s to organise this course, and Dr. Jonathan Bartlett from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will be visiting for three days to deliver the course.

The following week, Mark will be back over in Bristol (we like Bristol) for a course on Multilevel Modelling using Stat-JR, and meeting with staff from the Centre for Multilevel Modelling to prepare materials for a course (we like courses too) at Queen’s in September on Multilevel modelling. Multilevel modelling approaches will be important for the Grief Study to take account of difference in prescribing rates across Northern Ireland. There may be some differences in custom and practice of GPs in terms of their use of pharmacological treatments for mental health compared to alternative therapies. Multilevel modelling will allow us to look at the effect of bereavement on an individual’s likelihood of using antidepressants, while also accounting for any variation due to differences between prescribers in their rates of prescribing.

It will be a busy summer, but by the time the nights start getting longer, the Grief study should have begun producing some research findings. Make sure to check back for more information on what we’ve found.

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