The self-reported health status of lone parents

Soc Sci Med. 1998 May;46(10):1337-53. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(97)10083-1.


A number of studies have shown that lone parents have poorer health status than the general population. However, what is missing from the existing literature is any systematic assessment of the contribution that lone parents' relatively poor socioeconomic circumstances make to their relative health disadvantage. This paper aims to fill this gap. It employs a large national dataset based on three consecutive years of the British General Household Survey (1992/1993 to 1994/1995) to assess the relative health status of lone parents in comparison to couple parents, and to evaluate the importance of different explanations for their health differences. The results confirm that lone parents, particularly lone mothers, have poor health status relative to parents living as couples. The observed health differences mirror variations in socioeconomic circumstances. However, even when a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic circumstances are included in multivariate models, lone mothers still have significantly poorer health than couple mothers for four out of five health variables. The paper concludes by discussing alternative explanations for the health differences between lone and couple parents--such as the absence of an intimate/confiding relationship, the stress and stigma associated with becoming a lone parent and health selection--and by highlighting future options for policy and research in this area.

MeSH terms

  • Fathers
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Single Parent*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom