Health and Healthcare Utilization Among Swedish Single Parent Families

Detta är en avhandling från Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Sammanfattning: One of the most vulnerable groups in Swedish society today is single parent families, a group that has increased over the last thirty years in proportion to married and cohabiting parents. The aims of this thesis are to study inequality and inequity in health and health care utilization with regard to whether parents are single or couple (married/cohabiting), to investigate whether the concept of social capital may provide us with further understanding when analyzing inequality and inequity in health and to investigate how the mental health of single parent children may differ from couple parent children and to what extent this difference may be due to parental socio-economic and socio-demographic characteristics, including social capital. The results from the papers on which this thesis is based indicate that both single mothers and single fathers have poorer health than couple mothers and fathers. Single mothers also refrain from seeking medical care to a greater extent. The financial advantage of single fathers, in comparison with single mothers, might have an impact on their medical care utilization, since they seemingly seek and consume health care to an extent that matches their poorer health. Social capital has as robust an association with self-rated health as any traditional social determinant of health. Four parental characteristics were found to be independently associated with children’s mental health; being a single parent, ‘poor parental health’, limited social support and low levels of social capital. The uneven distribution of all investigated determinants of health, including social capital, gives us reason to conclude that our findings indeed raise concerns about equity. Action taken by society to enable single parents to increase their social capital might improve their and their children’s health. It may also be clearly stated that financial status has a major impact on both health and health care utilization. This particular characteristic is also rather accessible to alteration, for example through financial transfers between groups in society.