It has become apparent that single fathers are a particularly vulnerable group. According to a new Canadian study, the risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or partnered fathers.
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. “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.
Why is this? Because men tend not to ask for help? Stress? Poor lifestyle choices? I had thought divorced father’s tended to pair up far more quickly with a partner than single mother’s do, but clearly this is not the case.
Chiu and colleagues tracked nearly 40,500 people across Canada over 11 years. The subjects – who included 4,590 single moms and 871 single dads – were, on average, in their early 40s when study began.
Nearly 700 died by the end of the monitoring period.
Even whilst 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.
“We did find that single fathers tended to have unhealthier lifestyles,” Chui said, “which could include poor diet, lack of exercise, or excessive drinking”.
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.
Making matters worse, a 2016 study showed that go-it-alone dads – even if they acknowledge being in poor shape, physically and mentally – are less likely to seek professional help than women.
Not sure whether there have been similar studies done in the UK, but this is a huge cause for concern and needs to be addressed.