LivingSingle parents are more likely to die young

Single parents are more likely to die young

A large-scale study has compared the lifestyle and mortality risk of single parents compared to paired single parents, concluding that single parents – than single mothers – are more likely to die prematurely. The findings have been published in the journal The Lancet Public Health.

According to the Pew Research Center , in the United States alone, of fewer than 300,000 homes built with single parents in the 1960s, in 2011 the number increased to more than 2.6 million. Regarding women, single mother households went from 1.9 million to 8.6 million during that time. The growth is the least striking.

As the authors of the new study point out, despite these rising numbers, not enough research has been done on the health of single fathers, nor has the mortality of single mothers been compared to that of single fathers.

To shed some light on this issue, researcher Maria Chiu, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the University of Toronto , both in Canada, and her colleagues followed the lifestyles of nearly 40,500 Canadians over an 11-year period.


Risk of death doubled among single parents

Of all the participants, 871 were single fathers, 4,590 were single mothers, 16,341 were fathers with a partner, and 18,688 were mothers with a partner. On average, the participants were between the ages of 41 and 46 with at least one biological or adoptive child living in the home who was less than 25 years old.

“Single parents were defined as those who were divorced, separated, widowed or single, who had never married and who did not live with a partner, and paired parents were defined as those who were married or had common-law partners,” explain the authors.

Using the Cox proportional hazard model , the scientists performed what is to their knowledge the “first direct comparison of mortality between groups of single parents and couples.”

At the beginning of the study, single parents were more likely to have cancer and heart disease than those with a partner. In addition, they were more likely to have been hospitalized in the year prior to the study.

Overall, single fathers were found to be more than twice as likely to die prematurely as married or mated and single mothers. They also led less healthy lifestyles and were more likely to binge drink once a month, as well as consume fewer fruits and vegetables.

Could lifestyle be to blame for risk of death?

The study was unable to draw any conclusions regarding causes of death, mainly due to the fact that deaths during the study period were recorded as “other causes”.

However, the authors speculate on some of the possible causes. An unhealthy lifestyle can play a role, they suggest, as well as a lack of social support.

“Our research highlights that single fathers have higher mortality and demonstrates the need for public health policies to help identify and support these men,” explains Chiu.

Reference: Mortality in single fathers compared with single mothers and partnered parents: a population-based cohort study. Maria Chiu, Maria Chiu, Maria Chiu, Farah Rahman, Simone Vigod, Cindy Lau, John Cairney, Paul Kurdyak. The Lancet.

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