University of Bath

Lone mothers, work and depression

An IPR Policy Brief about the positive impact paid work has on single mothers.

The idea that ‘work is good for you’ has long been championed by politicians and policymakers. Research by the University suggests that, for lone mothers, paid work that enables them to balance work and childcare responsibilities really does improve their mental well-being. This is particularly where there is flexibility over working hours and no pressure to work more hours than desired. The study carried out in collaboration with Gingerbread and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, has shown that being in paid employment is a key factor explaining the fall in lone mother’s rates of depression seen in the last decade. This improvement was found only among working lone mothers; for those not in work, mental well-being deteriorated over the same period. This contrasts with the mid-1990s, when work and positive mental health showed little association, with those both in and out of work being at high risk of depression.