Single parents are more at risk of anxiety

18th May 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week

Anxiety is stopping single parents from doing what they like, or need to do with the vast majority of single parents saying anxiety has interfered with their day-to-day life.


of single parents felt anxious in the last two weeks (compared to 73% of the general population).


of single parents found that anxiety interferes with their day-to-day life.


of single parents said that financial security would help with their anxiety.

Four in ten single parents in the UK with anxiety (41%) feel anxious to the extent that it stops them from doing what they like or need to do, most or all of the time. Just 26% of the general population with anxiety said it affected their life in the same way, showing that single parents are significantly more likely to experience debilitating anxiety.

Single parents are more likely to feel anxious than others. Almost nine in ten single parents (89%) felt anxious in the last two weeks, compared to 73% of the general population. Of those single parents who had experienced anxiety in the last two weeks, 86% found it had interfered with their day-to-day life.

Julie Cameron, Associate Director at Mental Health Foundation, said:

“Parenting is a challenge and for people who are raising a child on their own, the pressure can be immense. Worry and anxiety can intensify when you are solely responsible for looking after your child, paying the bills, and providing everything a child needs.

“It can also be a lonely experience and our survey showed that almost one-third of single parents felt anxiety due to loneliness (31%). This is compared to 23% of the general population. That’s why it’s important that single parents have support networks, people they can talk to who understand what they’re going through. It’s vital governments and local authorities commit to investing in community programmes and groups that support people at higher risk of poor mental health, including single parents.”

The cost-of-living crisis has impacted the experience of anxiety for single parents with more than a third of single parents (39%) saying that debt had made them feel anxious in the last two weeks, similar numbers (36%) felt anxious about being able to pay the bills. 20% of single parents said that worrying about their housing situation made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.

When asked what would help with their anxiety, 41% of anxious single parents said financial security and a quarter (24%) said help with debt.

Small Talk – support for lone parents

Small Talk is our project that supports partner organisations which support lone parents in Scotland to develop and deliver peer support groups. The project was developed following a study which clearly identified the need for support during the perinatal period - birth to 12 months, and early mental health and well-being support for lone parents, including during pregnancy. It also highlighted the benefit of peer support networks for the emotional well-being of lone parents and their desire for more support of that type.

A group of 11 parents who have participated in peer support groups have co-produced a two-part film series about their experience of parenting alone, anxiety, and the value of support groups through pregnancy and the early years (or perinatal period) of childhood. One film is a dramatisation of their experiences, and one is a documentary.

Learn more about our Small Talk programme

Chloe's story

Chloe, age 20 from Wishaw, is a single mum to a 9-month-old boy. She is supported by One Parent Families Scotland and attends their Best Beginnings parent and child sessions in North Lanarkshire.

Chloe said:

“It took me a lot to open up about my mental health. I felt embarrassed and I felt like a bad parent. I didn’t know you could get as low as I could. At the start, I felt no emotion but to look at it now, I’m proud of myself. Speaking about it has made it a lot better. When I spoke about it, it made sense...I’m glad I got the help.

“The group gave me a break and my own time. It’s always just me and him. I’m a supermum and I never thought I could be a single mum. It’s the best job ever.”

We are the home of Mental Health Awareness Week

Learn more about the week and read our report about anxiety in the UK.
Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week - 15 to 21 May 2023


Notes to editors

For further information and interview requests, please [email protected] .

About polling

Polling of 6000 UK adults aged 18+ was carried out by Opinium between 24 March and 3 April 2023. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative. 353 respondents were single parents of children under age 18.

About Mental Health Awareness Week

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • Our vision is for good mental health for all.
  • The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.
  • We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.
  • Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves.
  • The Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidenced-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health.
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