Both marriage and divorce can cause people to add a few extra pounds, but the effects of marital transitions are the opposite for men as they are for women, suggests a new study from Ohio State University. For men, the risk of a large weight gain increased most prominently after a divorce. But for women, the risk of a large weight gain was most likely after marriage.
"Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender," said Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study. "Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk."
Tumin added that the probability of large weight gains following marital transitions increased the most for people past age 30. "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. But later in life, there is much more of a difference."
While there have been previous studies about weight gain after marriage or divorce, most of them look at average changes in weight and find very small increases in weight after marriage and often small decreases in weight after divorce. But, according to the researchers, these results may mask the fact that some people actually lose weight, while some stay the same and some have large weight increases.
The new findings fit with other research on how marriage affects men and women. "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," co-researcher Zhenchao 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."
The probability of weight gain become more pronounced for men and women who marry or divorce after age 30 and the changes only grow larger as people get older, the study found. Tumin said that it may be that people settle into certain patterns of physical activity and diet over time. "As you get older, having a sudden change in your life like a marriage or a divorce is a bigger shock than it would have been when you were younger, and that can really impact your weight."
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Source: Ohio State University