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Study: Higher stroke risk in males linked to parental divorce

A new study suggests that men with divorced parents are more likely to suffer a stroke than men with unbroken families. According to a University of Toronto report, men who were younger than 18 when their parents divorced are three times more likely to experience a stroke than men whose parents did not divorce. Interestingly, women from broken families did not have higher a likelihood of stroke than women from unbroken families.

“The strong association we found for males between parental divorce and stroke is extremely concerning,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Chair at at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine, in a statement.

Noting that a study published recently in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect discovered that men who suffered sexual abuse as children were three times more likely to have a heart attack than all other men, the researchers tried to take into account other risk factors that could impact the health of adult men.

“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,” said co-author Angela Dalton, a recent University of Toronto graduate, in a statement.

“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.”

Although researchers are not exactly sure why men from broken families had a greater risk of stroke, they believe that it may have something to do with the body’s regulation of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

The findings will be published in the International Journal of Stroke.