What will you gain when you say, I do ?

By ACSH Staff — Apr 06, 2013
Newlyweds may be gaining more than wedded bliss when they exchange their vows, according to a new study.

Newlyweds may be gaining more than wedded bliss when they exchange their vows, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that young couples who are satisfied in their relationships gain weight in the early years of marriage, putting them at greater risk for various health problems. In contrast, spouses who were less satisfied, tended to gain less weight over time, according to psychologist Andrea L. Meltzer, lead researcher and assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The study is based on 169 first-married newlywed couples whose marital contentment and weight were tracked over the course of four years. Previous similar research has shown that marriage is associated with weight gain and that divorce is associated with weight loss, but questions about the correlation between marital bliss and actual health remain.

For example, studies have found that satisfied couples are more likely to take medications on time and schedule annual physicals," Meltzer said. "Yet the role of marital satisfaction and actual health is less clear."

In this particular study, the newlyweds reported twice a year on their marital satisfaction and steps toward divorce. They also reported their height and weight, which was used to calculate their body mass indices. The findings showed that perhaps the spouses viewed their weight in terms of appearance rather than health, thus less happy spouses were more likely to lose weight and consider divorce, according to Meltzer.

"We know that weight gain can be associated with a variety of negative health consequences, for example diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Meltzer 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 ACSH staff debated a little about what it meant to be taking steps towards divorce and eventually agreed that this referred to people who were unsatisfied in their marriages who were also seeking steps towards divorce. They also contemplated the idea that these trends may potentially be used as the focus of new public health programs focused on preventing weight gain in marriage.

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