Over the years, researchers have found more than a few health benefits associated with a supportive marriage, from a longer life to a lower risk of heart attacks. When it comes to weight, however, married couples have appeared to be at a disadvantage. Some research has suggested that getting married may make people gain weight, and one study of newlyweds even found a connection between marital satisfaction and packing on the pounds.
A new study, however, has good news for the happily coupled. It found that the better and more supportive a person’s marriage, the less likely he or she is to gain weight and become obese in middle age. The findings were published recently in the journal Health Psychology.
“This study suggests a supportive marital relationship is associated with healthier body weight in midlife,” said study co-author Ying Chen, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an email to TIME. “It adds to the evidence that a positive social relationship is a health asset.”
The researchers asked almost 2,650 people who were married or in long-term “marriage-like” relationships about their levels of marital support and strain, as well as the overall quality of their partnerships. They assigned numerical values to their relationships based on these responses, then tracked weight gain over a follow-up period of almost nine years.
People with high levels of marriage quality and support were less likely than people who were in less supportive marriages to gain weight over time, the researchers found. For each step up on the marriage quality scale, people gained about three-quarters of a pound less during the follow-up period and had a 10% lower risk of obesity. For each step up on the support scale, they gained about 1.5 fewer pounds and had a 22% lower risk of obesity.
These perks are likely related to the well-documented health benefits of social support, which may prompt partners to encourage each other to pursue healthy behaviors and steer clear of destructive habits. That’s not true of every couple, Chen says, but the pattern is consistent at the population level.
Interestingly, however, marital strain did not appear to strongly affect weight gain either way — a finding that Chen says surprised the researchers.
“It is possible that middle-aged couples have …read more
Source:: Time – Health