Can Parents' Divorce Boost Son's Risk for Stroke?

WEDNESDAY Sept. 26, 2012 -- New research suggests a strong association between parental divorce and boys' risk for stroke later in life.

Researchers from the University of Toronto found that boys whose parents divorce before they turn 18 years old are three times more likely to suffer a stroke as adults than men who grow up in intact families. They noted this greater risk of stroke was not the result of other contributing factors such as family violence or parental addiction.

"The strong association we found for males between parental divorce and stroke is extremely concerning," study lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, chair of the university's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said in a university news release.

Even after adjusting for factors such as race, income and education, and adult health behaviors such as smoking, parental divorce was still associated with a threefold risk of stroke among males, said Fuller-Thomson.

Although the reason why these men seem at greater risk for stroke remains unclear, the study authors suggested it may have something to do with their levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

"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," noted Fuller-Thomson.

Women from divorced families do not face the same increased risk, the researchers found.

Although an association was noted between sons of divorced parents and later stroke risk, the research did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. More research is needed to confirm their findings, the researchers said.

"If these findings are replicated in other studies, then perhaps health professionals will include information on a patient's parental divorce status to improve targeting of stroke prevention education," said Fuller-Thomson.

The findings are published in the September issue of the International Journal of Stroke.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about stress and health.

Posted: September 2012


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