Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight Gain

Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight GainMarriage has long been associated with health benefits. However, times change and contemporary marriage appears to be linked with weight gain.

On the up side, Southern Methodist University researchers discovered the increase in body mass index over time is associated with relationship satisfaction.

By contrast, when couples are less satisfied in their marriage, or even contemplating separation, they’re significantly less likely to incur the weight penalty of their happier counterparts.

“It’s pretty well-established that marriage is associated with weight gain, and divorce is associated with weight loss,” said Dr. Andrea Meltzer, assistant professor of psychology. “But the extent to which satisfaction plays a role hasn’t been examined until now.”

The outcome of the study, found in the journal Health Psychology, was uncertain from the start.

Prior research has found that satisfying relationships are actually helpful in promoting good health practices. But Meltzer notes that those studies focused more on behaviors — such as taking medication on time or getting an annual physical — than weight.

Literature on mating, meanwhile, has shown that weight-maintenance is motivated primarily by a desire to attract a partner.

From this perspective, it makes sense that keeping svelte could be a function of dissatisfaction, and a desire to get back on the market.

To test which of these models held true, Meltzer and her co-authors tracked 169 newlyweds (married within the previous six months) for four years, checking in biannually to assess such measures as height, weight, marital satisfaction, stress, steps toward divorce and so on.

Upon analyzing the results, they found that more satisfied couples gained more weight — even controlling for confounding factors such as pregnancy.

“It was a relatively small amount of weight,” said Meltzer, who used changes in body mass index to assess this. “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.”

In fact, a 2007 study of nearly 8,000 people found that over a five-year period, married men gained six more pounds than their same-aged bachelor buddies, while wedded women gained nine more pounds than their single counterparts.

As for why a happy marriage is correlated with a heavier physique, researchers can only speculate.

“What I think is happening is that people are thinking about weight maintenance in terms of appearance as opposed to health,” said Meltzer.

“The individuals who were buffered from weight-gain were the ones who were considering going back into the mating market and having to find a new partner, which suggests it has something to do with looks.”

The sheer stress of a breakup is also known to make the pounds melt off. And in a recent study out of Rutgers University, it was found that women in low-quality relationships were more likely to crash diet.

Meltzer suggests that happy couples who consider weight in terms of health, as opposed to appearance, may be able to avoid the costs at the scale.

But she also cautions that happy couples whose pants-size has crept up over the years can’t discount the effects of, a poor diet and limited physical activity.

“There’s more than just relationship satisfaction accounting for increased weight over time,” she said.

Source: Southern Methodist University

Happy overweight married couple photo by shutterstock.

Psych Central News » Relationships and Sexuality

11 Responses to Happy Marriage Tends to Mean Weight Gain

  1. The Supervisor April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    What do you think of this article?

  2. Hull April 26, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Correlation does not infer causality.

    • The Supervisor April 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Spoken like a fitness instructor:)

  3. Tiffany T. April 27, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I believe that both, positive and negative relationships can cause people to gain weight. I’ve seen people eat for comfort when their relationships are stressing them out and they gain more even when they know the relationship is going to end. And I’ve also seen where the the couple were considered to be obese when they got married, and they changed their diet/exercise regimen and lost a significant amount of weight ss a happy couple. So I can’t agree whole heartedly with this study.

  4. Lubna K April 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I also think that people can gain and lose weight depending on their situations, some eat more when they are going to through stressfull time or a bad relationship others on the other hand stop eating under stressfull times,

  5. Eisha B May 1, 2013 at 12:35 am

    I do feel that when either counterpart is contemplating seperation that it is important to keep up appearances to attract another partner. However I think that even in poor quality relationships there can be significant weight gain due to depression and having little motivation. There is no univerisal answer but I feel that when a couple is content, happy, and satisfied with their relationship gaining a few pounds because the pressure is not there to “impress” the opposite sex as much.

  6. Latocia K May 1, 2013 at 2:42 am

    I agree that people essentially gain weight over time while married, but I would not say it is absolute that it is contributed to the couple’s happiness. I have been married for over 10 years and have gained and loss weight sporadically through the years. I would attribute my weight gain of 22lbs over the last 3-4 years to my age, slower metabolism, and transitions in life; such as having a child, school, stress of finding the best job that fits me, being in supervision, making time for love ones, and basically trying to balance all that goes with having a family and working. I also believe that my weight gain has come about due to living a fast pace lifestyle so to speak during the day then I am ready to “crash” in the evening or sit in a stupor after a long busy day. I think about exercise almost daily, but yet to see an actual time slot in my life at this time to commit to a regular exercise routine…

  7. Tarieka May 4, 2013 at 2:18 am

    I do agree that people tend to gain weight when they are happily married. I think it is in part to the partners being comfortable with each other and possibly a tad complacent in the relationship. I think that weight gain/loss depends on the person. Some people are stress eaters or tend to isolate when stressed, others tend to be involved in physical activity.

  8. Barbara May 6, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I tend to agree that a happy marriage contributes to weight gain. Especially when children are involved, 3 square meals are a must for their health and wellbeing. Mothers hate to see food on a plate going into the garbage and might eat some of what the kids don’t. What do couples do on “date night”? They go out to eat. It’s a way of socializing even when there is not enough money to go to a movie or concert. Also, when there is the stress of a perceived break up, one’s metabolism seems to go into the fight or flight mode and extra weight gets used up to feul this reaction to the perceived danger.

  9. Reginald May 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I believe that it can go both ways for the weight gain. We can all pretty much admit that when people are single and trying to attract their mate that there is a lot of work put into looks, which includes staying fit or slim. There is this type of comfortability that comes with some marriages that couples can fall off together in how they look whether a good or bad marriage. On the other hand, there may also be a level of respect that a husband or wife has for one another that keeps them involved in working out or looking good to keep each others attention physically. I can see how being happy and weight gain are related, but I can also see how weight gain and stress are related as well. To say weight gain is an outcome of a happy marriage, well maybe so, but the same can be said for miserable marriages.

  10. Sharon May 15, 2013 at 2:34 am

    More factors contribute to weight gain than happiness in marriage. Weight gain can happen in happy marriages as well as unhappy marriages just as weight loss can happen in unhappy or happy marriages. I think it is going to depend on the individual person’s coping skills and lifestyle choices.


Leave a Reply to Hull Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter