Published Papers - Abstract 251

Loxton D, Mooney R & Young AF. The psychological health of sole mothers in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 2006; 184(6): 265-268

Objective: To determine the psychological wellbeing of sole mothers in Australia.Design: Cross-sectional analyses of survey data from The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.Participants: 9689 younger women (aged 22-27 years) surveyed in 2000 and 12338 mid-aged women (aged 47-52 years) surveyed in 1998. Main outcome measures: Demographic characteristics and economic status; prevalence of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and psychoactive medication use items; depression (Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale) and psychological health (the Mental Health Component Score of the Medical Outcome Short Form Health Survey [SF-36]).Results: Among the younger women, sole mothers were more likely than other women to have experienced suicidal thoughts (odds ratio [OR], 2.18; 95% CI, 1.45-3.27) and self-harm (OR, 3.25; 95% CI, 1.97-5.38). Among the younger and mid-age women, sole mothers were the group most likely to have used medication for depression (Ors, 2.75 [95% CI, 1.76-4.30] and 2.29 [95% CI, 1.56-3.37], respectively). They were more than twice as likely to have experienced depression, and had significantly poorer psychological health (P < 0.001). After adjusting for economic status, only depression and psychological health remained significantly associated with sole motherhood, and the strength of these relationships was reduced.Conclusions: Economic status partly accounts for the relatively poorer psychological health of sole mothers. Sole mothers are more likely than other women to experience debilitating psychological health problems.

Open Access Article