TORONTO, December 20, 2012, ( – A new study of Canadian women finds that pregnant women who are married suffer less partner abuse, substance abuse, and post-partum depression than women who are cohabitating or single.

Dr. Marcelo Urquia, an epidemiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, found that about one in 10 married women (10.6 per cent) suffered partner abuse, substance abuse, or post-partum depression. However, 20 per cent of women who were cohabitating but not married suffered from at least one of those three conditions.


The figure rose to 35 per cent for single women who had never married—and to 67 per cent for those who separated or divorced in the year before birth.

“We did not see that pattern among married women, who experienced less psychosocial problems, regardless of the length of time they lived together with their spouses,” Dr. Urquia said.

Dr. Urquia said understanding the differences in abuse and depression between married and cohabitating partners was important as the number of children born outside marriages rises.

The study was based on data from the 2006-7 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey, a national survey of 6,421 childbearing women compiled by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

Dr. Urquia found that the longer a cohabitating but not married woman lived with the same partner, the lower her risk of partner/substance abuse or depression.

“What is new in this study is that for the first time we looked at the duration of unmarried cohabitation and found the shorter the cohabitation, the more likely women were to suffer intimate-partner violence, substance abuse, or post-partum depression around the time of conception, pregnancy, and delivery,” he said.

He cited current data which shows that 30 per cent of children in Canada are born to unmarried couples, up from nine per cent in 1971. He also noted that in several European countries, births out of wedlock outnumber those to married couples.

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, 47.2 per cent of the babies born in England and Wales in 2011 were born to parents who were not married or in a civil partnership.

Dr. Urquia concluded that research on maternal and child health would benefit from distinguishing between married and unmarried cohabiting women, and their duration of cohabitation.

His study, titled “Marital Status, Duration of Cohabitation, and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Childbearing Women: A Canadian Nationwide Survey,” was published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.