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Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy AFP | 3 years ago
By AFP | 3 years ago

 Shot of a father and son enjoying a day outdoors

The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up fathers.

This is according to a study of Canadian families published yesterday.

"Our research highlights that single fathers have higher mortality, and demonstrates the need for public health policies to help identify and support these men," said lead author Maria Chiu, a scientist at the University of Toronto.

The findings, published in The Lancet Public Health, may apply to wealthy nations with similar ratios of single-parent families to Canada, the researchers said.

Chiu and colleagues tracked nearly 40,500 people across Canada over 11 years. The subjects - who included 4,590 single mothers and 871 single fathers - were, on average, in their early 40s when the study began.

Nearly 700 died by the end of the monitoring period.

Compared to partnered fathers or single mothers, the death rate was three times higher among single fathers.

Mortality risk

Factoring in that solo fathers tended to be older, had higher cancer rates, and were more prone to heart disease, the researchers concluded their mortality risk was still twice as high.

Likely culprits include poor lifestyle choices and stress, Chiu said.

"We did find that single fathers tended to have unhealthier lifestyles," which could include poor diet, lack of exercise, or excessive drinking, she said.

Men parenting on their own were more likely to be separated, divorced, or widowed than single mothers - a larger proportion of whom raise babies conceived outside of a relationship, the team found.

Having experienced a breakup is a risk factor for mental ill health.

"These results show that single fathers might be a particularly vulnerable group," Rachel Simpson, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, commented in the same journal.   

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