Both sexes were more likely to gain weight in the two years after a divorce or marriage
By Nick Collins
A study of more than 10,000 people surveyed between 1986 and 2008 found that both marrying and getting divorced can have a "weight shock" effect that leads to rapid weight gain, especially in over-30s.
But there was a marked difference between men and women in which marital event was the most traumatic on the waistline.
Researchers used data from a national survey in which men and women were weighed every year to see how many pounds they gained or lost in the two years following a marriage or divorce.
Up to the age of 30 there was little impact on the weight of either men or women, but after this point the probability of weight gain after marriage or divorce began to rise steadily until the age of 50.
Both sexes were more likely to gain weight in the two years after a divorce or marriage than someone who had never been married, the research showed.
Dmitry Tumin of Ohio State University, who led the study, said: "Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender.
"Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk."
The impact was greatest on older people because a marriage or divorce comes as a greater shock later in life, he added.
The study, to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas today [AUG 22], says it is not clear why men’s and women’s waistlines respond differently to marriage and divorce.
But Prof Zhenchao Qian, one of the researchers, said: "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 Telegraph Group London 2011