June 23rd 2016

Clinicians should pay particular attention to single working moms, as they’re more likely to have a stroke than their married counterparts.

Clinicians should pay particular attention to single working moms, as they’re more likely to have a stroke than their married counterparts.

A recent study that appeared in theAmerican Journal of Public Healthsifted through data from the US Health and Retirement Study and the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe. Researchers analyzed a total of 18,000 women and controlled for work and family patterns.

In the US cohort, 11% of the women were single working mothers, compared with 5% of the women in the European cohort. The remainder of the women in the study included single women who worked but didn’t have kids, stay-at-home married mothers, and married working mothers who may have stayed home at some point but eventually returned to the work force.

Having controlled for work and family patterns, the investigators then compared self-reported data about disease prevalence and cardiovascular (CV) risk factors, including smoking.

Compared with married mothers who worked, single mothers with jobs were 40% more likely to have heart disease and 74% more likely to have a stroke. Single mothers were also 77% more likely to smoke than married women, regardless of location.

The researchers also observed that the health burden and risks for single working moms is greater in the United States than it is in Europe. Women in the US cohort had nearly 3 times the risk of heart disease and 2 times the risk of stroke compared with their European counterparts.

The researchers attributed the heightened health risks to the financial and social stress that often accompany raising a family alone. They also surmised that more liberal family leave policies in Europe could explain why US women generally fare worse.

Although she wasn’t affiliated with the study, Stephanie Steinbaum, MD, director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital, weighed in on the study findings.

“There is no job more time-consuming, emotionally demanding, and stressful than being a mom,” she explained toHealthDay,“So, there is nobody who is going to have more stress—especially when you add in the financial issues—than a single mother.”

Study co-author Frank van Lenthe, PhD, of the Netherlands Department of Public Health, explained toHealthDaythat the findings were unsurprising. Previous studies corroborated the reality that women who consistently work, are married, and have children are the healthiest of all women.

Retail clinicians are well placed in their communities to remind single mothers with jobs that they need to remember to take care of themselves. Behavioral changes, such as smoking cessation and exercising regularly, can help reduce CV risks.

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