Background: Lone mothers experience higher rates of psychiatric morbidity, while rates in lone fathers have never been studied. We aimed to determine the relative contributions of financial strain and decreased social support to the excess of depression and common mental disorders (CMD) in lone parents.
Method: We investigated whether parent status (lone parent, partnered parent, others) was associated with psychiatric morbidity measured using the revised Clinical Interview Schedule, after controlling for self-reported financial strain (income and debt) and social support.
Results: Lone mothers were twice as likely to have a CMD (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.4-2.3) as other women. This was not significant after controlling for financial strain or social support. Lone fathers were nearly four times more likely to have a CMD than other men (OR 3.9, 95% CI 2.3-6.8), and this risk remained undiminished by controlling for age, income, debt and levels of social support.
Conclusion: Debt management would be a rational strategy to reduce psychiatric morbidity in lone mothers. More studies are needed to inform prevention strategies in lone fathers.