Single mothers’ self-assessment of health: a systematic exploration of the literature

Authors

  • E. Rousou RN, PhDc,

    Scientific Staff, Corresponding author
    1. Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus
    • Correspondence address: Elena Rousou, 8 Vavilonos, 4007 Mesa Yitonia, Limassol, Cyprus; Tel: +357-99846634; Fax: +357-25002822; E-mail: elena.rousou@cut.ac.cy.

    Search for more papers by this author
  • C. Kouta RN, PhD,

    Assistant Professor
    1. Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus
    Search for more papers by this author
  • N. Middleton PhD,

    Assistant Professor
    1. Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus
    Search for more papers by this author
  • M. Karanikola RN, PhD

    Lecturer
    1. Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Aim

This study aimed to explore single mothers’ self-assessed level of health status compared to partnered mothers and the relevant factors associated with it.

Background

The number of single-mother families is increasing worldwide. A large body of international research reveals that single mothers experience poorer physical and mental health than their married counterparts. An important contributory factor for this health disparity appears to be socio-economic disadvantage.

Methods

A systematic search of the literature was conducted using the keywords ‘lone’ or ‘single’ and ‘mother*’ or ‘parent*’ or ‘family structure’ in combination with ‘health’. EMBASE, CINAHL, COCHRANE and PUBMED databas were searched for quantitative research studies published in the past decade.

Results

Eleven quantitative research articles with self-assessment of health status in single mothers were identified. Single mothers report lower levels of health status compared to partnered mothers. These inequalities appear to be associated with financial hardship and lack of social support. Both these factors increase single mothers’ susceptibility to stress and illness.

Conclusion

Despite the study limitations (e.g. results based mainly on secondary data from household surveys), it provides evidence that single motherhood places women in an adverse social position that is associated with prolonged stress mainly due to unemployment, economic hardship and social exclusion, which affects negatively their health status. These findings can be seen as a challenge for health professionals, especially those working in the community sector and policy makers too, to establish supportive measures for this vulnerable group focused on socio-economic factors.

Ancillary