Working Single Mothers Have a Higher Risk of Stroke

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A mother
A motherPhoto: Reza Estakhrian

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that being a working single mother puts women in both Europe and the United States at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, and in particular, stroke.

Using a sample of about 6,000 women in the U.S. and 10,000 from 13 European countries — all born between 1935 and 1956 — researchers at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, found that “losing support from a partner, or the security of a job, may cause stress and result in unhealthy behaviors.”

The reasons behind this are multifaceted, however. For instance, the study found that the United States has about twice the percentage of working, single mothers as Europe: About 11 percent of mothers in the United States are or have been single, while only 5 percent in Europe have. Working single mothers, the study found, are about 77 percent more likely to smoke than their married peers, placing them at greater risk for both cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The study compared working single mothers with married stay-at-home mothers, single women without children, and married women with jobs and kids. Single working mothers in the U.S., in particular, are at risk, but the state of being single and working does not fully account for the higher rates of stroke: When corrected and accounted for, the risk fell one point but remained firmly above that of Europe.