Parental divorce triggers stroke risk by three times in males, especially if the event takes place before they turn 18, as compared to peers from intact families, says a new study
from divorced families did not have a higher risk of stroke than women from intact families, the study found.
Globally, stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases account for 10 percent of deaths, making stroke the second leading cause of death.
"The strong association we found for males between parental divorce and stroke is extremely concerning," says Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor of social work and department of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto, who led the study, the International Journal of Stroke
"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, according to a Toronto
"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 behaviours or lower socioeconomic status among men whose parents had divorced," explains Toronto's recent graduate and study 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 behaviours ( 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 three-fold 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.
Fuller-Thomson explains the increased rate of stroke could be linked to a process known as biological embedding.
"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," says Fuller-Thomson.