Blog | Wednesday, August 24, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Marital transitions cause weight gain

Women gain weight after marriage and men after divorce, especially among those over 30, likely the result of "weight shock" to people's routines in physical activity and diet, sociologists reported.

The research, led by a sociology doctoral student at The Ohio State University, was presented at a roundtable on Marriage and Family at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. They used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth '79, a nationally representative sample of men and women ages 14 to 22 in 1979. The same people were surveyed every year up to 1994 and every other year since then, reported a press release.

Data on more than 10,000 people surveyed from 1986 to 2008 was used to determine weight gain in the two years following marriage or divorce. Researchers separated people into four groups based upon body-mass index: those who had a body-mass index decrease of about 7 pounds for a person 5' 10" tall; those who gained 7-20 pounds; those who gained more than 21 pounds; and those with no gain or who lost less than 7 pounds.

While there have been many studies about weight gain after marriage or divorce, most of them look at average changes in weight and find very small increases or small decreases in weight. But these results may mask the fact that some people actually lose weight, while some stay the same and some have large weight increases, one of the researchers said.

"For most people, the weight gain we see after a marital transition is relatively small, not something we would see as a serious health threat," researchers reported.

The results fit with other research on how marriage affects men and women. Women may have less time for diet and exercise after marriage, and men lose their health benefits gained in marriage after leaving the relationship. Researchers reported that people settle into certain patterns of physical activity and diet over time, and the sudden transition "is a bigger shock than it would have been when you were younger, and that can really impact your weight."