Single mothers’ self-assessment of health: a systematic exploration of the literature
Version of Record online: 26 JUN 2013
© 2013 International Council of Nurses
International Nursing Review
Volume 60, Issue 4, pages 425–434, December 2013
How to Cite
Rousou, E., Kouta, C., Middleton, N. and Karanikola, M. (2013), Single mothers’ self-assessment of health: a systematic exploration of the literature. International Nursing Review, 60: 425–434. doi: 10.1111/inr.12044
- Issue online: 20 NOV 2013
- Version of Record online: 26 JUN 2013
- Health Professionals;
- Lone Mothers;
- Self-Rated Health;
- Single Mothers;
- Social Exclusion
This study aimed to explore single mothers’ self-assessed level of health status compared to partnered mothers and the relevant factors associated with it.
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.
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.
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.
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.