By Robert L. Mues   |   October 20th, 2012

Study Shows Higher Risk Of Stroke For Men Of Parental Divorce

divorceIt often is said that children are the most affected by divorce. Now a Toronto study has found that men with divorced parents are significantly more likely to suffer a stroke than men from intact families, according to a recent study from the University of Toronto. The study, published in the International Journal of Stroke, shows that adult men who had experienced parental divorce before they turned 18 are three times more likely to suffer a stroke than men whose parents did not divorce. Women from divorced families did not have a higher risk of stroke than women from intact families.

The Toronto Star reports the University of Toronto researchers examined data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC) from a health risk survey involving 4,074 males and 5,886 females.  According to Esme Fuller-Thomson, Chair at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine and lead author of the study, “the strong association we found for males between parental divorce and stroke is extremely concerning.”

Angela Dalton, co-author of the study, adds that “it is particularly perplexing in light of the fact we excluded from our study individuals who had been exposed to any form of family violence or parental addictions. We had anticipated that the association between the childhood experience of parental divorce and stroke may have been due to other factors such as riskier health behaviors or lower socioeconomic status among men whose parents had divorced; however, we controlled statistically for most of the known risk factors for stroke, including age, race, income and education, adult health behaviors (smoking, exercise, obesity, and alcohol use), social support, mental health status and health care coverage. Even after these adjustments, parental divorce was still associated with a threefold risk of stroke among males.”

Researchers cannot say with certainty why men from divorced families had triple the risk of stroke, but one possibility lies in the body’s regulation of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. This study was observational meaning that cause and effect cannot be determined. That is, researchers cannot prove that divorced parents influenced the higher risk of stroke among men. Nevertheless, the study will undoubtedly lead to new investigational studies to ascertain if a unique factor in men is related to stroke.

“It is possible that exposure to the stress of parental divorce may have biological implications that change the way these boys react to stress for the rest of their lives,” Fuller-Thomson explained. “Our hypothesis is that it may be the way sons react to the loss of their fathers . . . Men often had very minimal contact with their children after that,” Fuller-Thomson said. “Dads may be very good for your long-term health,” she added.

If replicated, the results of this study could certainly affect future stroke education procedures for health care professionals to inquire about male patients parental divorce status to improve targeting of stroke prevention education.

Internationally, stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases account for ten (10) percent of deaths, making stroke the second leading cause of death.

The primary source for this article is a media release from the University of Toronto.

DIVORCE STUDY: Stroke risk rises for men with divorced parents

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Divorce Linked to Stroke in Men
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