Single motherhood tied to health decline

By • Published: September 27th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Single moms sure have it tough. Juggling the time commitment and financial demands of parenting all alone, not to mention the worries, sounds downright exhausting.

New information from the American Sociological Association highlights another major struggle for single moms: their health. After studying several thousand women over almost 30 years, the researchers found those who were unmarried when their first child was born were more likely to be in poor health at 40 than moms who were married when baby number one arrived.

The investigators say extra stress and limited finances are likely to blame, making these women more apt to become ill and less able to afford health care than their married counterparts.

Hispanic single moms were an exception. They didn’t have poorer health than married mothers. The researchers suggest the closeness of Latino families and the prevalence of unmarried Hispanic couples in committed, long-term relationships may lessen the negative health effects for these women.

But for women whose health was affected, marriage was not a cure. Those who gave birth as singles and married later still saw had poorer health … unless they married and stuck with the father of their first child.

Why? The study authors cited other research showing that marriage is tougher when one spouse has a child from another relationship, and that moms tend to marry men with lower incomes than childless women do. These and other factors can make it difficult for once-single moms to find stability and financial security in marriage.

If you’re a single mom, how can you stay healthy? Here are a few tips. Surround yourself with positive people to help you through tough times. Look for single parent support groups in your community. And, don’t feel guilty taking time to focus on yourself. Remember, your child wants you to be healthy, too.