Single mothers in Ontario: sociodemographic, physical and mental health characteristics.
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OBJECTIVE: To examine the sociodemographic, physical and mental health characteristics of single mothers in Ontario. DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Ontario. PARTICIPANTS: Ontario residents aged 15 years or older who participated in the Ontario Health Supplement survey conducted between December 1990 and April 1991; of 9953 eligible participants, 1540 were mothers with at least 1 dependent child (less than 16 years of age). OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence rates of sociodemographic, physical and mental health characteristics. RESULTS: Single mothers were significantly more likely than the mothers in 2-parent families to be poor, to be 25 years of age or less, to have mental health problems (dissatisfaction with multiple aspects of life, affective disorder ever and 1 or more psychiatric disorders in the past year or ever) and to use mental health services. When compared by income level, poor single mothers had a higher prevalence of all mental health outcomes measured; the difference was significant for anxiety disorder in the past year or ever and for 1 or more psychiatric disorders in the past year or ever. In a logistic regression analysis, single-mother status was found to have the strongest independent effect on predicting mental health morbidity and utilization of mental health services; the next strongest was low income. CONCLUSIONS: Single mothers are more likely to be poor, to have an affective disorder and to use mental health services than mothers in 2-parent families. The risk of mental health problems is especially pronounced among poor single mothers. Further studies are needed to determine which aspects of single motherhood, apart from economic status, affect mental health outcomes.
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