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Self-rated health and mental health of lone fathers compared with lone mothers and partnered fathers: a population-based cross-sectional study
  1. Maria Chiu1,2,
  2. Farah Rahman1,
  3. Paul Kurdyak1,2,3,
  4. John Cairney1,4,
  5. Nathaniel Jembere5,
  6. Simone Vigod1,2,6
  1. 1Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine and Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6Women's College Hospital and Women's College Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Maria Chiu, Mental Health and Addictions Program, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences G-106, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4N 3M5, Canada; maria.chiu{at}


Background Lone parenthood is associated with poorer health; however, the vast majority of previous studies have examined lone mothers and only a few have focused on lone fathers. We aimed to examine the self-rated health and mental health status among a large population-based cross-sectional sample of Canadian lone fathers compared with both partnered fathers and lone mothers.

Methods We investigated differences in self-rated health and mental health among 1058 lone fathers compared with 20 692 partnered fathers and 5725 lone mothers using the Ontario component of the Canadian Community Health Survey (2001–2013). Multivariable logistic regression was used to compare the odds of poor/fair self-rated health and mental health between the study groups while adjusting for a comprehensive list of sociodemographic factors, stressors and lifestyle factors.

Results Lone fathers and lone mothers showed similar prevalence of poor/fair self-rated health (11.6% and 12.5%, respectively) and mental health (6.2% and 8.4%, respectively); the odds were similar even after multivariable adjustment. Lone fathers showed higher odds of poor/fair self-rated health (OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.17) and mental health (OR 2.09, 95% CI 1.26 to 3.46) than partnered fathers after adjustment for sociodemographic factors; however, these differences were no longer significant after accounting for stressors, including low income and unemployment.

Conclusions In this large population-based study, lone fathers had worse self-rated health and mental health than partnered fathers and similarly poor self-rated health and mental health as lone mothers. Interventions, supports and social policies designed for single parents should also recognise the needs of lone fathers.


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  • Contributors MC was the principal investigator and conceived the study. NJ performed the statistical analyses. All authors interpreted the data, critically revised the manuscript for important intellectual content, and approved the final version of the manuscript. NJ had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Funding This study was conducted using funding entirely from public sources. The study team received the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Evaluation Framework grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). PK has received operational support by an MOHLTC Health Services Research Fund Capacity Award to support this project. JC is supported by an endowed Research Chair from the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. SV is supported by Women's College Hospital, the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry and by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) is funded by the Ontario MOHLTC.

  • Disclaimer The study results and conclusions are those of the authors, and should not be attributed to any of the funding agencies or sponsoring agencies. No endorsement by ICES or the Ontario MOHLTC is intended or should be inferred. All decisions regarding study design, publication, and data analysis were made independent of the funding agencies.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Research Ethics Board at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Statistics Canada obtained informed consent from participants to use the information collected in the surveys.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.