TUESDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly one in 10 women in the United States were married before the age of 18, a new study finds, and they could face a slightly higher risk of mental illness than other married women.
The research doesn't prove that so-called "child marriage" causes the increased risk of mental problems, the authors noted in the report published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Still, the findings are enough for its lead author to call for the end of child marriage in the United States.
"People should ask their politicians to adopt a law to ban it. It should be avoided by families, and teenagers willing to be married should delay marriage to adulthood," said Dr. Yann Le Strat, a psychiatrist at Louis-Mourier Hospital of Paris in Colombes, France, and an adjunct scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
The study authors analyzed the results of a 2001-02 national survey designed to understand alcoholism and other conditions. A total of 24,575 women took part; the researchers focused on the 18,645 who were married or had been married.
The goal of the research was to understand how child marriage affects mental health in women, Le Strat explained. The researchers didn't look at how it might affect men.
"Studies in India and Africa have shown that child marriage is known to be associated with elevated risks of HIV transmission, unwanted pregnancy [and] death from childbirth," Le Strat said. "But surprisingly, the impact of child marriage on mental health had never been studied."
Of the nearly 19,000 women in the U.S. study, close to 9 percent had been married before the age of 18. They were more likely to be black or American Indian/Alaska Native, poorer and less educated than women who married later. They were also more likely to live in the South and in rural areas, and much more li
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