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Depression and common mental disorders in lone parents: results of the 2000 National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey

  • C. Cooper (a1), P. E. Bebbington (a1), H. Meltzer (a1), D. Bhugra (a1), T. Brugha (a1), R. Jenkins (a1), M. Farrell (a1) and M. King (a1)...

Lone mothers experience higher rates of psychiatric morbidity, while rates in lone fathers have never been studied. We aimed to determine the relative contributions of financial strain and decreased social support to the excess of depression and common mental disorders (CMD) in lone parents.


We investigated whether parent status (lone parent, partnered parent, others) was associated with psychiatric morbidity measured using the revised Clinical Interview Schedule, after controlling for self-reported financial strain (income and debt) and social support.


Lone mothers were twice as likely to have a CMD (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.4–2.3) as other women. This was not significant after controlling for financial strain or social support. Lone fathers were nearly four times more likely to have a CMD than other men (OR 3.9, 95% CI 2.3–6.8), and this risk remained undiminished by controlling for age, income, debt and levels of social support.


Debt management would be a rational strategy to reduce psychiatric morbidity in lone mothers. More studies are needed to inform prevention strategies in lone fathers.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Professor P. Bebbington, Head of Department of Mental Health Sciences, Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry, UCL – Department of Mental Health Sciences, 2nd Floor, Charles Bell House, 67-73 Riding House Street, London W1W 7EY, UK. (Email:
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M Benzeval (1998). The self-reported health status of lone parents. Social Science & Medicine 46, 13371353.

T Crosier , P Butterworth , B Rodgers (2007). Mental health problems among single and partnered mothers: the role of financial hardship and social support. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 42, 613.

K Honkalampi , J Hintikka , K Haatainem , H Koivumaa-Honkanen , A Tanskanen , H Viinamäki (2005). Adverse childhood experiences, stressful life events or demographic factors: which are important in women's depression? A 2-year follow-up population study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39, 627632.

G Neises , C Gruneberg (2005). Socioeconomic situation and health outcomes of single parents. Journal of Public Health 13, 270278.

WG Ringback Weitoft , B Burstrom , M Rosen (2004). Premature mortality among lone fathers and childless men. Social Science & Medicine 59, 14491459.

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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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