Marriage can hurt your waistline, particularly if you’re a woman. But divorce can lead to larger weight gains in men.
A new study by researchers at Ohio State University found that people over the age of 30 tend to pack on pounds after marriage or divorce. They referred to those marital transitions as “weight shocks.”
However, men and women are more vulnerable to different weight shocks. The scientists discovered that women are more likely to gain weight after marriage, while men are more likely to put on a few pounds after divorce.
“Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender,” the lead author Dmitry Tumin said in a press release. “Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.”
The researchers examined data from more than 10,000 people, surveyed from 1986 to 2008, and looked at how much weight they had gained within two years of a marriage or divorce. While some individuals gained no weight, or even lost weight, others put on a modest to large amount of weight, up to 21 lbs or more.
The impact of marital transitions on weight did not seem to affect people in their 20s. But changes in weight were greater, the older the subjects were. The researchers took into account a number of factors, including pregnancy, socioeconomic status and education.
The data did not reveal why men and women tend to respond to marriage and divorce differently. But co-author and sociology professor Zhenchao Qian offered this possible explanation: “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.”
Has a change in marital status affected your weight?