A new study of Massachusetts parents found that single fathers have a higher premature mortality rate than single mothers or parents who are paired up. The study tracked more than 40,000 people for 11 years and found that single dads died soonest, and also had the least healthy lifestyles.
The study could not ascertain what made single dads die sooner, but after adjusting for age, lifestyle, health and socio-demographic characteristics, their risk of death over the course of the study was more than twice as high as other parents.
The researchers found that single fathers were less likely to eat fruits and vegetables and more likely to binge drink than other types of parents. They were also more likely to have cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study started.
While many more single mothers than fathers lead households in the U.S. and elsewhere, about 8% of American homes were headed up by single fathers in 2013, according to figures from the Pew Research Center. In 2011, that represented 2.6 million households.
The researchers suggested that it’s possible that the fathers’ lack of access to social networks, social assistance and child support may have an influence on their health. However, the single dads’ survey responses suggested that they seemed to feel they were part of the community as much as other parents, and they seemed to be slightly more likely to go to the doctor regularly. Researchers suggested health professionals should be informed that these men might be at higher risk.
One thing that’s unlikely to have contributed to the fathers’ deaths is the stress of having children around.
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