April 4, 2013
Happily Married Newlyweds More Likely To Pack On The Pounds
WATCH VIDEO: [Happy Marriage Can Threaten Health]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
While previous research has shown that marriage is associated with weight gain, the role of marital satisfaction has never been fully investigated, according to the study´s lead author Andrea L. Meltzer, a psychology professor at Southern Methodist University (SMU).
“On average, spouses who were more satisfied with their marriage were less likely to consider leaving their marriage, and they gained more weight over time,” she said in a statement. “In contrast, couples who were less satisfied in their relationship tended to gain less weight over time.”
Meltzer added that some studies have looked at marital satisfaction in relation to health maintenance behaviors.
“For example, studies have found that satisfied couples are more likely to take medications on time and schedule annual physicals,” she said. “Yet the role of marital satisfaction and actual health is less clear.”
For the study, which was published in the journal Health Psychology, about 170 newlywed couples reported twice annually on their marital satisfaction and steps toward divorce over the course of four years. Researchers also recorded their height and weight, which was used to calculate their body mass indices.
Even after considering confounding factors such as pregnancy, the researchers found that spouses who were less satisfied with their marriage and were more likely to consider divorce, averaged less weight gain over time.
“So these findings suggest that people perhaps are thinking about their weight in terms of appearance rather than health,” Meltzer explained.
She added that the study could be viewed as a cautionary tale for newlywed couples who may be satisfied with their relationship.
"It was a relatively small amount of weight," Meltzer told PostMedia News. "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."
“We know that weight gain can be associated with a variety of negative health consequences, for example diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” she said. “By focusing more on weight in terms of health implications as opposed to appearance implications, satisfied couples may be able to avoid potentially unhealthy weight gain over time in their marriages.”
The latest study does appear to coincide with previous research that shows people in a marriage tend to get heavier. According to a 2007 study of almost 8,000 people followed over a five-year span, married men gained six more pounds on average than their single counterparts, while married women gained nine more pounds than their single peers.
Previous research has also shown health benefits for married couples. A 2011 study found that happily married people who undergo a coronary bypass surgery are more likely to survive 15 years later as opposed to unmarried people.
“There´s something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track,” said the study´s lead author Dr. Kathleen King from the University of Rochester.