Background. In this paper, data from the British National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity are used to assess depressive disorders and markers of social disadvantage in women bringing up children on their own.
Method. The household component of the British National Surveys of Psychiatric Morbidity was based on a stratified random sample of >10000 subjects. This paper reports on 5281 women interviewed in person. Psychiatric symptoms and ICD-10 diagnoses were established by lay interviewers using the CIS-R. Results are presented in terms of depressive episode and mixed anxiety/depressive disorder. Housing tenure and access to a car were used as proxy measures of material status. The life event rate in the 6 months before interview was used to indicate overall exposure to stress, and subjects were asked in detail about perceived social support. Information was collected about various other sociodemographic attributes. Lone mothers were compared with supported mothers and with women not involved in care of children under 16.
Results. Lone mothers had prevalence rates of depressive episode of 7%, about three times higher than any other group. The milder condition, mixed anxiety/depression, was also increased in frequency. These increased rates of depressive conditions were no longer apparent after controlling for measures of social disadvantage, stress and isolation.
Conclusions. Lone mothers are increasing in numbers as marital stability declines. Their high rates of material disadvantage and of depressive disorder may have considerable implications for psychiatric and social policy.
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