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Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight Gain

Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight GainMarriage has long been associated with health benefits. However, times change and contemporary marriage appears to be linked with weight gain.

On the up side, Southern Methodist University researchers discovered the increase in body mass index over time is associated with relationship satisfaction.

By contrast, when couples are less satisfied in their marriage, or even contemplating separation, they’re significantly less likely to incur the weight penalty of their happier counterparts.

“It’s pretty well-established that marriage is associated with weight gain, and divorce is associated with weight loss,” said Dr. Andrea Meltzer, assistant professor of psychology. “But the extent to which satisfaction plays a role hasn’t been examined until now.”

The outcome of the study, found in the journal Health Psychology, was uncertain from the start.

Prior research has found that satisfying relationships are actually helpful in promoting good health practices. But Meltzer notes that those studies focused more on behaviors — such as taking medication on time or getting an annual physical — than weight.

Literature on mating, meanwhile, has shown that weight-maintenance is motivated primarily by a desire to attract a partner.

From this perspective, it makes sense that keeping svelte could be a function of dissatisfaction, and a desire to get back on the market.

To test which of these models held true, Meltzer and her co-authors tracked 169 newlyweds (married within the previous six months) for four years, checking in biannually to assess such measures as height, weight, marital satisfaction, stress, steps toward divorce and so on.

Upon analyzing the results, they found that more satisfied couples gained more weight — even controlling for confounding factors such as pregnancy.

“It was a relatively small amount of weight,” said Meltzer, who used changes in body mass index to assess this. “But we only looked at a snapshot of the first four years; if you take one of those happy marriages that go on for 20, 30, 40 years, it could potentially become unhealthy.”

In fact, a 2007 study of nearly 8,000 people found that over a five-year period, married men gained six more pounds than their same-aged bachelor buddies, while wedded women gained nine more pounds than their single counterparts.

As for why a happy marriage is correlated with a heavier physique, researchers can only speculate.

“What I think is happening is that people are thinking about weight maintenance in terms of appearance as opposed to health,” said Meltzer.

“The individuals who were buffered from weight-gain were the ones who were considering going back into the mating market and having to find a new partner, which suggests it has something to do with looks.”

The sheer stress of a breakup is also known to make the pounds melt off. And in a recent study out of Rutgers University, it was found that women in low-quality relationships were more likely to crash diet.

Meltzer suggests that happy couples who consider weight in terms of health, as opposed to appearance, may be able to avoid the costs at the scale.

But she also cautions that happy couples whose pants-size has crept up over the years can’t discount the effects of, a poor diet and limited physical activity.

“There’s more than just relationship satisfaction accounting for increased weight over time,” she said.

Source: Southern Methodist University

Happy overweight married couple photo by shutterstock.

Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight Gain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight Gain. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/04/05/happy-marriage-tends-to-mean-weight-gain/53453.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.