Item from the Smart Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics Collection

Friday, 7 April, 2000, BBC UK Lone mothers 'die early'

Bringing children up alone increases health risk, it is claimed Single
mothers have a higher risk of early death than those who live with a
partner, say researchers.

Women who live alone with their children are 70% more likely to suffer
premature death, they found.

The study of more than 700,000 women in Sweden suggested suicides,
violence and alcohol-related death were the biggest causes of increased
risk to lone mothers.

The number of single mums has increased significantly over the past few
decades - in Sweden, 20% of families are now headed by a lone parent.

The excess risk of death remained after adjusting the findings taking
into consideration economic status and previous medical records.

Though financial, social and health disadvantages played a part, there
was a risk of death independent of these factors, said Gunilla Ringback
Weitoft of the National Board of Health and Welfare in Stockholm, who led
the research.

Lone mothers were six times more likely to receive social welfare and two
times more likely to receive unemployment benefit than mothers who lived
with a partner.

Lone mothers were more likely to work full-time and on average worked
longer hours, increasing the stresses on them, Weitoft said in the Lancet
medical journal.

Risk of suicide

Their risk of suicide was four times higher and their risk of being a
victim of domestic violence was five times higher.

Weitoft said: "Psychological stress, stigma and financial difficulties
associated with lone parenthood have adverse health consequences.

"For previously married people, the stress suffered during marital
breakdown also contributes."

But she added that getting out of a failing or abusive marriage may
sometimes be in the woman's best interest.

"An intact marriage is no guarantee of an emotionally healthy,
well-supervised home environment," she said.

Francis McGlone, a senior research officer at the Family Policy Studies
Centre, an independent charity based in London, said the study's findings
did not surprise him.

He said: "For lone parents and their children, negative outcomes are
associated with that sort of family environment.

"As much as half of that may be due to poverty. Living in that poverty
will increase their chances of early death."

The stresses of being a lone parent were bad for both mothers and their
children, he added.

"We know that being married is an amazing protector."


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