When I first arrived at ISR, the Director, David Featherman, asked me what project I would most like to do. I told him that I thought that the best way to understand the adaptive functions of depression and grief would be to find a population of people who did not experience it and see what goes wrong in their lives. He smiled and said, "What if there was a large prospective study already conducted that was in the can and ready for analysis?" What could I say? I spent the next four years of my career mainly analyzing the data collected by Camile Wortman, Ron Kessler, Jim House and Jim Lepkowski. Thanks to a generous grant from NIA, I was able to engage lots of help from sophisticated statisticians and grief researchers, including Camille Wortman and Deborah Carr. The project generated many papers, a good book, and a website with all the data that is a great resource continuing to generate papers every year. However, the project did not answer my question.
Read the first article on the list to find out why.
Nesse, RM: An evolutionary framework for understanding grief. In Carr D, Nesse R, Wortman CB: Late Life Widowhood in the United States, Springer, 2005, pp. 195-226. " This chapter summarizes the results of my attempts to understand grief from an evolutionary perspective.
Nesse, RM: Understanding late life widowhood: New directions in research, theory and practice. In Carr D, Nesse R, Wortman CB: Late Life Widowhood in the United States, Springer, 2005, pp. 3-18. (introduction to the book)
Brown, S. L., Nesse, R., Vinokur, A. D., & Smith, D. M. (2003). Providing Support may be More Beneficial than Receiving It: Results from a Prospective Study of Mortality. Psychological Science, 14, 320-327, 2003.
Brown, S. L., Nesse, R. M., House, J. S., & Utz, R. Religion and Emotional Compensation: Results from a Prospective Study of Widowhood. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(9): 1165-1174, 2004.