Boys whose parents divorce may be at increased risk of stroke later in life, a new study suggests.
In the study, men whose parents had divorced before they were 18 were three times more likely to suffer a stroke during adulthood compared with those whose parents did not divorce.
The results held even after the researchers took into account factors that influence the risk of stroke, including smoking habits, exercise, obesity, alcohol use and health care coverage. Participants were not included in the study if they had experienced child abuse, or their parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Divorce did not increase the risk of stroke among women.
The study only found an association, not a cause-effect link, and research that follows children of divorced parents forward over time is needed to confirm findings.
It's not clear how divorce may increase the risk of stroke in men, but it's possible that divorce changes the way boys react to stress, said study researcher Esme Fuller-Thomson, of the University of Toronto.
If the findings are confirmed, "then perhaps health professionals will include information on a patient’s parental divorce status to improve targeting of stroke prevention education," Fuller-Thomson said.
The findings, published this month in the International Journal of Stroke, are based on information from more than 9,900 men and women in the United States who completed a national survey in 2010. Of the 4,047 men in the survey, 165 reported they had suffered a stroke.
The results agree with those of an earlier study, conducted last year by the same researchers, which found Canadian children of divorced parents were more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke later in life.
Pass it on: A man whose parents divorced when he was a child may be at increased risk of stroke.