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Women Gain Weight After Marriage -- Men Gain After Divorce

Tuesday, 23 Aug 2011 09:34 AM


Marriage and divorce affect the sexes differently, with women more likely to gain weight after walking down the aisle and men more apt to grow heavier after signing divorce papers, new research suggests.

“Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk,” Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University, said in a press release. Tumin presented his work Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas.

What’s more, the likelihood of a large weight gain after a change in marital status was particularly prevalent among people older than 30, and the changes only increase as people grow older, researchers found.

“For someone in their mid-20s, there is not much of a difference in the probability of gaining weight between someone who just got married and someone who never married,” Tumin said. “But later in life, there is much more of a difference.”

This may be the case because older people are more set in their diet and exercise habits, and experiencing an abrupt change in marital status may be more shocking to them and have a greater impact on weight, Tumin said.

Using data on 10,071 people surveyed from 1986 to 2008, the study determined weight gain during the two years after a marriage or divorce. The data was from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth ’79, a nationally representative sample of men and women ages 14 to 22 in 1979. The same participants were surveyed yearly through 1994 and every other year after that.

Researchers noted that other studies on weight changes in relation to marital status looked at averages and found small increases after marriage and small decreases after divorce. But those results may hide variations including people whose weight stays the same, as well as people who gain and lose pounds.

“We estimated the effects of marital transitions on the likelihood of weight gains or losses for different categories of people, allowing for the possibility that not everyone who goes through a marital transition has the same kind of experience,” said Zhenchao Qian, professor of sociology at Ohio State University, who also worked on the study.

Scientists didn’t study possible reasons behind the weight changes, but their findings fit with previous results from research on marriage, according to the press release from Ohio State University.

“Married women often have a larger role around the house than men do, and they may have less time to exercise and stay fit than similar unmarried women,” Qian said.

“On the other hand, studies show that married men get a health benefit from marriage, and they lose that benefit once they get divorced, which may lead to their weight gain.”





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