Single Motherhood Linked to Poor Health Later in Life

Being a single mother is difficult and trying work. Now, a study from the Harvard Center of Population and Development Studies suggests that being a single parent can have lasting effects on your health.

Surveys were taken from more than 25,000 women over age 50, from prior studies in 14 different countries. The women included reports on marital status, childbearing history, as well as how well they were able to complete daily tasks (errands, hygiene, driving). U.S. mothers were most commonly associated with being a single parent before age 50 (roughly 33 percent), compared to England (22 percent) Western Europe (22 percent) and Southern Europe (10 percent).  The researchers defined a “single mother” as being unmarried and having a child under the age of 18.  

Single mothers in Scandinavia, a country in western Europe,  were shown to have the most difficulty performing daily tasks, and were 50 percent more likely to have health issues. Mothers in the U.S. were only 27 percent more likely to have health issues after 50. 

The results, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showed that health risk was highest for young women who had children younger than 20, or those caring for a child alone for more than eight years.

Because of the demands of single parenthood, single mothers tend to exercise less, eat less healthy diets and deal with more stress on a daily basis in balancing work and family needs. 

The researchers said that single mothers may benefit from a wide range of social, economic and health protection policies, ranging from social programs that protect women from poverty to those that enable single mothers to participate in the paid labor force while taking care of a family, 

Sourced from: Reuters, Single motherhood tied to poorer health in later life