Adult men whose parents divorced before they were 18 are three times more likely to suffer a stroke than men of parents not divorced, Canadian researchers say.
The study, scheduled to be published in the International Journal of Stroke, also found women from divorced families did not have a higher risk of stroke than women from intact families.
Lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson of the University of Toronto and co-author Angela Dalton, a recent graduate, said the strong association for males between parental divorce and stroke was extremely concerning.
"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," Dalton said in a statement. "We had anticipated the association between the childhood experience of parental divorce and stroke may have been due to other factors such as riskier health behaviors or lower socioeconomic status among men whose parents had divorced."
However, the researchers controlled statistically for most of the known risk factors for stroke, including age, race, income and education, adult health behaviors -- smoking, exercise, obesity and alcohol use -- social support, mental health status and healthcare coverage.
"Even after these adjustments, parental divorce was still associated with a threefold risk of stroke among males," Dalton said.
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.