Death of a spouse is associated with increased mortality risk for the surviving partner (the widowhood effect). We investigated whether the effect magnitude varied between urban, rural and intermediate areas, assembling death records (2001-2009) for a prospective cohort of 296,125 married couples in Northern Ireland. The effect was greatest during the first six months of widowhood in all areas and for both sexes. Subsequently, the effect was attenuated among men in rural and intermediate areas but persisted in urban areas (HRs and 95% CIs: rural 1.09 [0.99, 1.21]; urban 1.35 [1.26, 1.44]). Among women the effect was attenuated in all areas (rural 1.06 [0.96, 1.17]; urban 1.09 [1.01, 1.17]). The impacts of spousal bereavement varied between urban and more rural areas, possibly due to variation in social support provided by the wider community. We identify men in urban areas as being in greatest need of such support and a possible target for health interventions.