Today scientists reveal that huge relationship changes like marriage and divorce can cause "weight shocks," leading you to put on extra pounds. This is most pronounced in people older than 30, and there's a gender difference: Women are most likely to gain after marriage, and men are most likely to put on weight after a divorce. In all likelihood this doesn't mean you're going to double your weight and experience a serious health problem, but expect reports in the next few days about how marriage is making you fat.
Ohio State University sociologists analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth '79, which included 10,071 people surveyed annually or biannually from 1986 to 2008. Most previous studies looked at average changes in the subjects' weight and found only slight weight gains after marriage and small decreases after divorce. Researchers Dmitry Tumin and Zhenchao Qian separated participants by gender and age and found different results. While there isn't much of a change for people who get married and divorced before 30, weight fluctuations are more likely for people who experience these transitions between 30 and 50. The effect is stronger as people age, and Tumin suggests this may be because people are more set in their ways when they're older.
As for why there's a gender difference, Qian says this may be because women are more likely to take on housework in addition to their jobs, and they're also held responsible for keeping the family healthy. Qian explains:
"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 ... 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."
Tumin says that "to some extent" this weight gain "may be large enough to pose a health risk," but he also adds, "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." It doesn't sound like something you need to be all that worked up about when you're enjoying your first two years of marriage or moving on after a divorce. However, that probably won't stop women's magazines from coming up with some kind of "Freshmen 15"-esque name for the "problem" and running countless articles on how to ward off the dreaded weight gain.
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