New study warns single mothers of potential health problems

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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts - A new study by Harvard researchers found single mothers are at a higher risk for worse health than their married counterparts.

"Analysis of the responses indicated that any period of single motherhood was linked to a greater risk of some level of physical disability and poor health in later life than dual parenthood," the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health said in a news release.

The findings were based off of over 25,000 responses from women over the age of 50 hailing from 21 countries, asked to gauge their own health and answer questions about their daily life.

"The researchers base their findings...on questions about childbearing and marital status; any limitations on their capacity for routine daily activities, such as personal hygiene and getting dressed, and instrumental daily activities, such as driving and shopping," the news release said.

The survey discovered about one in three American women under 50 was a single mom, compared to one in five in England and Western Europe and four of 10 in Denmark and Sweden.

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Parents Anonymous Inc., said she's not surprised by the findings because of the lifestyle single mothers live.

"Single parents are making tremendous sacrifices, sometime working two or three jobs just to get by, or to further their education and get a better job, but there's no one else to fall upon," she said. "Many parents put their kids first, and they ignore their own health issues. That happens over and over again, and that happens all the time. I'm not saying their consciously doing it, but when you choose between rent, food and health care, it's really hard."

Pion-Berlin said Parents Anonymous Inc. is an organization designed to help parents raise their families by building a community. Part of it is a national help line (1-855-427-2736), a source for advice on issues with their children and solutions for those problems. She wanted to use the study to shine light on the issue for single mothers, but not a stamp of gloom.

"I don't want any one who sees the study to feel doomed by it, but rather say ‘how can I focus on my health in a positive way?'" Pion-Berlin said. "This should be a wake-up call, that ‘I won't sacrifice my health for anything else.'"