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Marriage and divorce can pack on the pounds

August 22, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Men tend to gain weight after a divorce, while women may gain pounds after marriage, a study finds.
Men tend to gain weight after a divorce, while women may gain pounds after… (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles…)

Marriage may have an effect on weight -- so can divorce, a study finds.

Researchers examined weight loss and gain in men and women in the two years following a marital transition, getting married or getting divorced. They found that there was a difference for the sexes: Men were at higher risk for gaining weight after divorce, while women were at higher risk of packing on the pounds following marriage.

These weight gains were more likely to happen after age 30 -- before then, weight gains between just marrieds and unmarrieds weren't that dissimilar.

The study included 10,071 people who were surveyed about marital status and weight (determined by body mass index) between 1986 to 2008. Participants were grouped into those who saw a small BMI decrease in the two years following a change in marital status, those who had a small BMI increase, a large increase, or those whose BMI stayed fairly steady.

Besides the differences the researchers found for men and women, overall the sexes both tended to gain a small amount of weight in the two years following a marital change compared to people who never married.

As for an explanation, study co-author Zhenchao Qian of Ohio State University said in a news release, "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."

The study was presented today at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Assn. in Las Vegas.

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