NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 7, 2006

Smoking is clearly more common among single parents than among married parents, say researchers from the University of Helsinki.

Parsing data collected in 2000 and 2001 from municipal employees in Helsinki, the Finnish researchers found that the advantage tobacco companies find in family divorces is all too apparent.


  • While only 15 percent of married mothers in this study smoked, 26 percent of single mothers did.
  • Among fathers, 32 percent of the married fathers in the study smoked, compared to 48 percent of single fathers, though the researchers acknowledged that the number of single fathers in the study was quite low.

Moreover, say the researchers, adjusting for economic difficulties did not level off the association between smoking and lone parenthood. The data compel the researchers to conclude that for both mothers and fathers, there is no relationship between smoking and both lone parenthood and economic difficulties.

Though social relations are normally positive to health, an unhealthy social pattern seems dominant within the social relations of single parents. Particularly among lone parents, smoking seems to be an important part of social life. That is, the social networks of single parents actually appear to encourage smoking. The social networks of married parents, on the other hand, do not foster such unhealthy habits, say the researchers.

Source: Ossi Rahkonen, Mikko Laaksonen and Sakari Karvonen, "The Contribution of Lone Parenthood and Economic Difficulties to Smoking," Social Science and Medicine, no. 61, 2005.

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