The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published on Thursday. “Our research highlights that single fathers have higher mortality, and demonstrates the need for public health policies to help identify and support these men,” said lead author Maria Chiu, a scientist at the University of Toronto.
The findings, published in The Lancet Public Health, may apply to wealthy nations with similar ratios of single-parent families to Canada, the researchers said. Chiu and colleagues tracked nearly 40,500 people across Canada over 11 years. The subjects — who included 4,590 single moms and 871 single dads — were, on average, in their early 40s when study began.
Nearly 700 died by the end of the monitoring period. Compared to partnered fathers or single moms, the death rate was three times higher among single fathers. Factoring in that solo dads tended to be older, had higher cancer rates, and were more prone to heart disease, the researchers concluded their mortality risk was still twice as high. Likely culprits include poor lifestyle choices and stress, Chiu said.