Health effects for single fathers?
Most parents know that raising children can be complicated and stressful. Education becomes even more difficult if there is only one parent. Researchers have now found that single fathers also have a significantly increased risk of premature death. For this reason, public health authorities should respond and better support those affected.
In their investigation, the University of Toronto scientists found that single fathers have a significantly higher risk of premature death. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "The Lancet Public Health".
The risk was more than twice as high
Compared to single mothers and fathers in a relationship, single fathers are more than twice as likely to die prematurely. The Canadian researchers' findings could also apply to other wealthy nations with similar ratios of single fathers, the experts explain.
The investigation included almost 40,500 subjects
Study author Dr. Maria Chiu of the University of Toronto and her colleagues have medically monitored nearly 40,500 people in Canada for over eleven years. The subjects included 4,590 single mothers and 871 single fathers. At the beginning of the study, the participants were on average around 40 years old. Almost 700 subjects died during the monitoring period.
These factors were also taken into account
Compared to fathers in a relationship or single mothers, the death rate among single fathers was three times higher in the study. Taking into account the fact that single fathers were older, had higher rates of cancer, and were generally more prone to heart disease, their risk of mortality was still twice as high, the researchers report.
Are lifestyle and stress the cause?
Unhealthy lifestyle and stress are probably the cause, says Dr. Chiu. Single fathers tended to have a healthier lifestyle, which could include poor diet, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking. Single males were more likely to live alone and a larger proportion of them raised their child outside of a relationship, the scientists continued.
Single fathers are less likely to seek help
These results show that single fathers may be a particularly vulnerable group. A study conducted in 2016 also found that single fathers - even if they are aware that they are physically and mentally in poor shape - are less likely to seek professional help than women.
Single parents are on the rise
There have been more and more single parents in the past few decades. For example, in the United States, the proportion of children who had single mothers tripled from eight percent in 1960 to 23 percent in 2016, according to a US census. The proportion of single fathers rose from one to four percent in the same period.
Where are the most single parents in Europe?
In Europe, Denmark is at the top of single parent households. 30 percent of households there were single parents. Of these, 23 percent are managed by women and seven percent by men. In France, the corresponding percentages were 19 percent for women and four percent for men. In Sweden, 14 percent for women and five percent for men. In Germany 17 percent for women and two percent for men. In Canada, 16 percent for women and three percent for men.
Rates are much higher in low-income countries
However, single parent rates in many low-income countries are much higher, especially in Africa. For example, nearly 40 percent of children in South Africa have only their mother as their sole parent, and four percent have only one father. Other countries with a high percentage of single parents are Mozambique (36 percent), the Dominican Republic (35 percent), Liberia (31 percent) and Kenya (30 percent), according to a study from 2016. Of the 2.3 billion children 14 percent (320 million) of the world live in a single household.
Single fathers have these two advantages
However, single fathers have a slight advantage over single mothers in at least two categories. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that mothers alone earn about two thirds of what their male colleagues earn. And another study from South Korea showed that single mothers were three times more likely to become addicted to alcohol. (as)