2017-12-13Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.17886/RKI-GBE-2017-123
The health of single mothers and fathers in Germany
Lippe, Elena von der
In every fifth family in Germany, one parent lives alone with children in the household. Life as a single parent is often marked by challenges that include adopting sole responsibility for the child’s education and care, alongside employment commitments, and the difficulties of reconciling work and family life. Moreover, despite comparatively high employment rates, single parents – and their children – are greatly affected by poverty. This paper compares the health of single parents and parents living in partnership and analyses the extent to which single parents’ health varies according to their socio-economic and employment status, and social support. The analysis was conducted using data from the German Health Update (GEDA) study in 2009, 2010 and 2012 on fair or poor self-rated general health, as well as depression, back pain, obesity, smoking, sporting inactivity and the non-utilization of dental check-ups. The analyses are based on data from 9,806 women and 6,279 men living in a household with at least one child under the age of 18. The study identified a significantly higher prevalence for all health indicators (apart from obesity) among single mothers compared to mothers living with a partner. In the case of single fathers, higher prevalences were found for depression, smoking and the non-utilization of dental check-ups. On average, the lower socio-economic status of women can explain a certain proportion of the health impairment of single parents, but not for men. However, a lower socio-economic status or social support do not account for the health impairments of single parents. Therefore, the higher prevalence of health impairments among single parents cannot simply be attributed to differences in employment status or to lower levels of social support; rather, certain health indicators show a cumulative effect between single-parents status and the social factors mentioned above. The results presented here provide a differentiated view of the relationship between the health and social situation of single parents. Improving the financial position of one-parent families and making it easier to reconcile work and family life are important steps that would help improve the health of single parents.