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Single dads are more at risk of dying early than single mums or parents that are together, according to a new study.
The research, which tracked over 40,000 parents in Canada over 11 years, was unable to identify specific causes of death, but the authors suggested single dads were more likely to lead unhealthier lifestyles which may explain the heightened risk.
Growing rates of divorce and separations mean single parent families are becoming increasingly common in the world. In 2016, around 10 per cent of three million single parent families in the UK were single dads.
“Our research highlights that single fathers have higher mortality, and demonstrates a need for public health policies to help identify and support these men,” says lead author Dr Maria Chiu, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and University of Toronto, Canada.
“While our study does not identify the exact cause of this, we did find that single fathers also tend to have unhealthier lifestyles, which could be an important area to address to improve health in this high-risk group.”
The study which was published in The Lancet Public Health, is the first to compare single dads and mums, as research in the past has focused on single mums only.
Participants in the study completed questionnaires on their lifestyle and sociodemographic status. After eleven years, 693 people had died. There were 5.8 deaths per 1,000 single dads, 1.9 deaths per 1,000 partnered dads and 1.7 deaths per 1,000 single mums. Partnered mums were least likely to die early with 1.2 deaths per 1,000.
Single dads were found to be older and had a higher prevalence of cancer than single mothers and partnered parents. They were also more likely to have cardiovascular disease than single and partnered mothers.
In addition, researchers found that single fathers were more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles, eating fewer fruit and vegetables, and were more likely to binge drink than single mothers and partnered parents.
The authors also suggest that social support may be an issue for single dads who may be less likely to have social networks, social assistance and child support. However, the study did find that single fathers were more likely to engage with health professionals than partnered fathers, which could offer an opportunity for doctors to intervene.