(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- About 40 percent of births in the U.S. now occur to unmarried women, compared to less than 10 percent in 1960. Also, women who had their first child outside of marriage reported having poorer health at age 40 than did other moms.
So what does that mean? According to a new study, it means that there could soon be a “boom” in the U.S. of single moms suffering middle-aged health problems.
The authors analyzed data from over 4,000 women who were followed for a 29-year period starting in 1979. They found that women who had their first child out of wedlock reported their health at age 40 to be worse than women who became moms while married.
Although the study couldn’t determine why the health for those single moms was reportedly worse, the authors speculate that it may be related to the high levels of stress and the poor economic conditions that single moms face. Interestingly, poorer health was not improved by subsequent marriage, unless that marriage was to the baby’s father, thus placing in doubt the benefits of government efforts to promote marriage for the health of women.
According to one of the study authors, “Studies have shown the average benefits of marriage to women in the general population…but this study shows that these benefits don’t apply equally to single mothers, at least when it comes to health.”
One concern is that the health measured in the study was assessed through self-reports on surveys, so what the authors measure here may not be actual health, but rather the perception of health -- a very different social issue.
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