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The self-reported health status of lone parents


  • Benzeval, Michaela


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Benzeval, Michaela, 1998. "The self-reported health status of lone parents," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 46(10), pages 1337-1353, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:46:y:1998:i:10:p:1337-1353

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Fritzell, Sara & Burstrom, Bo, 2006. "Economic strain and self-rated health among lone and couple mothers in Sweden during the 1990s compared to the 1980s," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 79(2-3), pages 253-264, December.
    2. Lori J. Curtis, 2001. "Lone Motherhood and Health Status," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 27(3), pages 335-356, September.
    3. Fritzell, Sara & Ringbäck Weitoft, Gunilla & Fritzell, Johan & Burström, Bo, 2007. "From macro to micro: The health of Swedish lone mothers during changing economic and social circumstances," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(12), pages 2474-2488, December.
    4. Dong-Sik Kim & Gyeong-Suk Jeon & Soong-Nang Jang, 2010. "Socioeconomic status, social support and self-rated health among lone mothers in South Korea," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 55(6), pages 551-559, December.
    5. Cherylynn Bassani, 2008. "The influence of financial, human and social capital on Japanese men’s and women’s health in single- and two-parent family structures," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 85(2), pages 191-209, January.


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