A new University of Toronto study found that men whose parents were divorced are at increased risk of stroke, compared to men whose parents stayed together. The research found that men whose parents were divorced before they turned 18 were three times more likely to experience a stroke than men whose parents did not divorce. Interestingly, researchers found no links between parental divorce rates and strokes in women.
“The strong association we found for males between parental divorce and stroke is extremely concerning,” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson.
“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,” explains University of Toronto recent graduate and co-author Angela Dalton. “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”
While researchers could not identify a cause for their findings, they did theorize that parental divorce defined stress reactions in young men. These stress reactions determine how men deal with difficult situations for the rest of their lives, which could possibly have physical consequences that elevate stroke risk factors. Researchers also noted the importance of replicating their findings through additional studies.
Strokes and related diseases cause about 10 percent of all deaths internationally, making it the world’s second-leading cause of death.