June 4, 2011

Single Moms Have Poorer Health in Midlife

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Stress and lack of support cause health problems

(dailyRx News) Presently, 40 percent of first children born in the United States are brought into the world outside a traditional marriage. As these single mothers enter middle age, their health problems could lead to a public health crisis.

A new nationwide study indicates that single mothers face significantly poorer health at midlife than do women who have children after marriage.

"Single mothers need to exercise and eat healthy too."

Kristi Williams, lead author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University reports that this is the first U.S. study to demonstrate long-term negative health consequences for unwed mothers due to stress and responsibility. Their poor economic situation only adds to the stress.

Women who are in marriages before having their children tends to help alleviate mother's stress by providing economic and social support, but black women appear disadvantaged in marriage as well.

Black single moms tend to marry men with poor economic status and futures, probably because of decades of poverty suffered by this demographic group.

Williams continues that studies have shown the average benefits of marriage to women in the general population. This data doesn't cover the lack of benefits received by single moms when it comes to health.

Single women often have too much working against them derive even average benefits from being married.

Interestingly, Hispanic single moms did not appear to be as disadvantaged as the black and white women were. There are two possible reasons for this: single Hispanic moms tend to live with the father of their children which simulates a traditional family and they have large, extended families which provide emotional and financial support for the single mom and her children.

The study used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which began in 1979 and interviewed a group of 13,000 men and women every year until 1994 and every other year since that time.

In the first analysis, the researchers used data on 3,391 women and a second analysis involved data on 1,150 women. By 2008, the data surrounding these women's life circumstances were in place. Whether the women ever married or divorced, health status and their financial situation was included in the data.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
May 30, 2011

Last Updated:
June 4, 2011