Women are widowed twice as often as men

Women are widowed twice as often as men

23rd June: International Widows’ Day

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes for the first time a statistic on widowhood. In 2017, 40,221 persons lost their spouse and were widowed. This is an eminently female phenomenon: 68.8 % were women, compared to 31.2 % of men.

Other characteristics of widow(er)s in 2017 include:

  • More than half of them are over 75 (54.5 %). This is particularly the case in Flanders (57.7 %). Also in Wallonia (49.2 %) and in the Brussels-Capital Region (51.8 %), one widow(er) out of two is older than 75.
  • On average, men are widowed at the age of 76.2.
  • On average, women are widowed at the age of 73.7.
  • Marriages ending with the death of one of the spouses have an average duration of 48.2 years.

Young widow(er)s: early widowhood

Some persons are widowed before the age of 55. This situation is slightly more frequent is the Brussels-Capital Region (10.4 %) than in the two other regions (7.7 % of the cases in Wallonia and 6.4 % in Flanders). 59.6 % of young widow(er)s have at least one potentially dependent child under 25 living with them.

What form of household after the death of the spouse?

After the death of their spouse, 77.1 % of widow(er)s live alone. 18 % of them live with at least one other person, often a child (15,6 %). The remaining 4,9 % live in a community (for example in a senior care facility).

Family circle

More than half of widow(er)s (54.5 %) are older than 75. More than half of them can rely on the presence of a child, either at home or within 5 kilometres. This situation is more common in the Flemish Region (58 % of the cases) than in Wallonia (50.8 %) or in the Brussels-Capital Region (47.3 %).

The gross widowhood rate stands at 3.5‰[1].

[1]The gross widowhood rate is the ratio, expressed in ‰, between the number of widowhoods and the average population of the specified year.


Widowhood per gender of the spouses, per region and per province, 2017

Administrative unit All widows and widowers Widowers Widows
Belgium (Total) 40.221 12.561 27.660
Brussels-Capital Region 2.674 756 1.918
Flemish Region 24.447 7.870 16.577
Province of Antwerp 6.614 2.171 4.443
Province of Limburg 3.226 1.061 2.165
Province of East Flanders 5.459 1.730 3.729
Province of Flemish Brabant 4.143 1.339 2.804
Province of West Flanders 5.005 1.569 3.436
Walloon Region 13.100 3.935 9.165
Province of Walloon Brabant 1.395 405 990
Province of Hainaut 4.930 1.406 3.524
Province of Liège 4.043 1.251 2.792
Province of Luxembourg 1.001 322 679
Province of Namur 1.731 551 1.180
of which German-speaking Community 303 96 207
Source: Statbel (Directorate-General Statistics - Statistics Belgium).

Purpose and short description

The statistic includes all widowhoods having occurred during a given year and concerning a Belgian resident. These events are divided according to the widow(er)’s municipality of residence, the month of the event, the age, the nationality of the spouses, the household’s situation, the parental situation, the marriage duration,... It also presents the average ages at the time of widowhood according to various criteria: sex, order of marriage, nationality.

Survey population

All widowhoods



Release calendar

Results available 9 months after the reference period.


The crude widowhood rate is the ratio between the number of widowhoods having occurred during the year and the mean of the total population of that same year.

The total “widowhood” rate or sum of duration-specific widowhoods indicates the number of widowhoods in a fictitious group of 1,000 marriages if, for each marriage duration, we observe the same widowhood rates than those recorded in the year concerned. Municipality of widowhood: municipality of residence of the widow(er) at the time of the event.

Month of widowhood: month of widowhood derived from the date of widowhood (i.e. the death of the spouse).

Age of the widow(er): age of the widow(er) at the time of widowhood, calculated in completed years as the difference between the date of the widowhood and the date of birth.

Age of the deceased spouse: age of the spouse at the time of his/her death, calculated in completed years as the difference between the date of death (=date of widowhood for the surviving spouse) and the date of birth.

Group of nationalities: grouping of the countries of nationality of the widow(er) or his/her deceased spouse according to whether this country is Belgium, a Member State of the European Union or another country.

Place of marriage: place where the marriage of the widow(er) and his/her deceased spouse has been registered according to IT120 of the National Register.

Household’s situation: type of household where the widow(er) lives at the time of widowhood, based mainly on the analysis of ITs 140 and 141 on the household composition and its members.

Parental situation: situation of the widow(er) according to the presence or not of at least one of his/her children at the same residence; based on the analysis of the IT 110 on filiation.

Geographical situation of the widow(er)’s children: distance of any children of the widow(er), based on the joint analysis of ITs 110 (filiation), 001 (municipality of residence) and 020 (address of the main residence). A child identified at the same address as his/her widowed parent is considered to be living at the latter’s home. Only living children registered in the National Register are taken into account. The category “Child(ren) abroad” includes widow(er)s without any children registered in Belgium at the time of widowhood and having at least one child registered abroad or deleted from the National Register at that same date. Widow(er)s with children abroad who have never lived in Belgium and so never been registered in the National Register cannot be taken into consideration.

Average duration of marriage: average of marriage durations (=difference between the date of widowhood and the date of marriage) of the cases of widowhood observed in a given year. Those for which the date of marriage is not known are not included.

Average age at the time of widowhood/death: average of ages of the persons concerned (widow(er)s or their deceased spouse). The persons whose age at the time of widowhood/decease is not known are not taken into account.