12-Month Prevalence of Depression among Single and Married Mothers in the 1994 National Population Health Survey

By Cairney, John; Thorpe, Cathy et al. | Canadian Journal of Public Health, September/October 1999 | Go to article overview

12-Month Prevalence of Depression among Single and Married Mothers in the 1994 National Population Health Survey


Cairney, John, Thorpe, Cathy, Rietschlin, John, Avison, William R, Canadian Journal of Public Health


ABSTRACT

While a number of studies have documented higher period prevalence rates of depression among single as compared to married mothers, all of the data have been based upon community surveys of mental illness. In Canada, all of the published work comes from Ontario. As a result, we do not know whether these results hold true for other regions of the country. Using a nationally representative sample, we find, consistent with previous work, that single mothers have almost double the 12-month prevalence rates of married mothers (15.4% versus 6.8%). As well, there are no significant differences in rates of depression between single and married mothers by region/province of the country. Our findings are compared with other epidemiologic data on the mental health of single mothers from Ontario.

ABREGE

Bien que plusieurs etudes aient fait apparaitre des taux de prevalence de periodes de depression plus elevees chez les metes celibataires que chez les meres marines, toutes les donnees venaient d'enquetes communautaires sur les maladies mentales. Au Canada, routes les etudes publiees viennent de l'Ontario. En consequence, on ne sait pas si ces resultats valent egalement pour les autres regions du pays. k partir d'un echantillon national repr6sentatif, nous constatons, comme l'indiquent au demeurant les etudes anterieures, que les taux de prevalence stir 12 mois des meres celibataires sont pres du double de ceux des meres marines (15,4 % par rapport a 6,8 %). De meme, it n'existe aucune difference significative entre les taux de depression des meres celibataires et mariees par region et par province au pays. Nous comparons nos resultats a d'autres donnEes epidemiologiques relatives a la same mentale des meres celibataires en Ontario.

Single-parent mothers and their children have become a prevalent family structure in North America since the Second World War. Commensurate with the increase in single-parent families has been an interest in the health consequences associated with this emergent family structure. Previous research has shown that single mothers are at a greater risk of both physical and mental health problems compared to married mothers.1-6 While many different measures of health status have been used in these studies, depression has emerged as a particularly important measure to consider. This is understandable since many of the risk factors associated with depression (e.g., gender and disadvantaged socioeconomic status) are also associated with single parenthood. Studies from Canada,7,9 the United States,"o and Great Britain" all document elevated rates of depression among single mothers (see Table I). While the results of all these studies show single mothers to be at greater risk for affective disorders, all of the aforementioned studies were conducted using community samples. Studies in Canada, for example, are all based upon samples drawn from Ontario. To date, there have been no published data on the prevalence of depression among single and married mothers using a sample of Canadians from different regions of the country. As a result, we do not know whether there are regional differences in the prevalence of depression among these groups.

Using data from the 1994 National Population Health Survey, we examine the 12-month prevalence of major depressive episodes among single and married mothers. This survey uses a representative sample from all 10 provinces in Canada.

METHODS

The following analyses were conducted using the 1994 National Population Health Survey (NPHS) by Statistics Canada. For a complete description of the methodology, consult the NPHS Public Use Microdata File Documentation.12 Using a multi-stage, stratified, random sampling procedure, 19,600 households across Canada were surveyed in which one person was selected to provide detailed personal information for the longitudinal component of the survey. People living in Indian reserves, military bases, institutions, and some remote areas in Ontario and Quebec were excluded, resulting in a response rate of 96%. …

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