Research Shows Single Parents More Likely To Suffer From Anxiety

New research shows that anxiety is interfering with the lives of single parents to a detrimental level.

Anxiety is getting in the way

Anxiety is stopping single parents from doing what they like, or need to do with the vast majority of single parents saying anxiety has interfered with their day-to-day life. This is according to new research issued by the Mental Health Foundation.

Four in ten single parents in the UK with anxiety (41%) feel anxious to the extent that it stops them from doing what they like or need to do, most or all of the time. Just 26% of the general population with anxiety said it affected their life in the same way, showing that single parents are significantly more likely to experience debilitating anxiety.

Single parents are more likely to feel anxious than others. Almost nine in ten single parents (89%) felt anxious in the last two weeks, compared to 73% of the general population. Of those single parents who had experienced anxiety in the last two weeks, 86% found it had interfered with their day-to-day life.

What does the research tell us?

Julie Cameron, Associate Director at Mental Health Foundation, said,

“Parenting is a challenge, and for people who are raising a child on their own, the pressure can be immense. Worry and anxiety can intensify when you are solely responsible for looking after your child, paying the bills, and providing everything a child needs.

“It can also be a lonely experience, and our survey showed that almost one-third of single parents felt anxiety due to loneliness (31%). This is compared to 23% of the general population. That’s why it’s important that single parents have support networks, people they can talk to who understand what they’re going through. It’s vital governments and local authorities commit to investing in community programmes and groups that support people at higher risk of poor mental health, including single parents.”

The cost-of-living crisis has impacted the experience of anxiety for single parents with more than a third of single parents (39%) saying that debt had made them feel anxious in the last two weeks, similar numbers (36%) felt anxious about being able to pay the bills. 20% of single parents said that worrying about their housing situation made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.

When asked what would help with their anxiety, 41% of anxious single parents said financial security and a quarter (24%) said help with debt.

Small Talk – support for lone parents

For many lone parents, pregnancy and parenthood have not only the usual worries and challenges but many others, too, including the feeling of isolation and being stigmatized. Peer support groups and early support for families can make a huge difference, and there’s already been some great work in this area.

Small Talk is one project launched by The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) that supports partner organizations that support lone parents in Scotland to develop and deliver peer support groups. The project was developed following a study that clearly identified the need for support during the perinatal period – birth to 12 months, and early mental health and well-being support for lone parents, including during pregnancy.

Together with three partner organizations, the research was conducted by MHF between February and April 2022. It also highlighted the benefit of peer support networks for the emotional well-being of young mums and their desire for more support of that type.

A group of 11 parents who have participated in peer support groups have co-produced a two-part film series about their experience of parenting alone, anxiety, and the value of support groups through pregnancy and the early years (or perinatal period) of childhood.

One film is a dramatisation of their experiences, and one is a documentary.

Learn more about the MHF Small Talk programme


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