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Single motherhood tied to poorer health in later life

Raising a child alone may take a lasting toll, leading to poorer health and more struggles with daily tasks after age 50, according to a new international study.

Social safety nets and resources from extended families may blunt this effect in some countries more than others, and researchers found the association with poor health was strongest in the U.S., England, Sweden and Denmark, compared to southern European countries.

“We had anticipated that single mothers in the U.S. would do poorly given that so many single moms are poor or low wage workers and that the U.S. lacks most basic social protections for single mothers compared to other countries,” said lead author Dr. Lisa F. Berkman of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts.