Objective: Lone mothers are among the most disadvantaged groups in many countries. Smoking prevalence among this demographic group is considerably higher than the general population. Previous work has shown that only part of this difference can be explained by age, not having a partner, living alone, and socio-economic factors. This study examined the contribution of mental health, the social environment, and the lifecourse in explaining the effect of lone motherhood on smoking status.
Methods: Cross-sectional data from the 1995 National Health Survey and 2001 National Drug Strategy Survey were used. Smoking was defined as daily smoking. Mental health was assessed using a 14-item scale from the SF-36. Proportion of friends who smoke was used as an indicator of the social environment. Age started smoking daily (< or = 18 and > 18) was used as a lifecourse factor.
Results: Mental health, proportion of friends who smoke and age of smoking initiation had strong associations with smoking status. However, they accounted for a small part of the association of being a lone mother and a smoker. After controlling for these factors, the odds of being a smoker among lone mothers were still twice those of mothers with partners (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.7-2.7).
Conclusions and implications: Improving the socio-economic status (SES), mental health and the social environment of lone mothers could help reduce their high smoking prevalence. However, much of the effect of being a lone mother remains even after controlling for these factors. More research is needed to discover why prevalence is so high among this demographic group.