Marriage later in life may cause middle-aged women to gain weight, but those who divorce may see improvements in their health, according to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health. The study tracked marital status and various health measures to explore how marriage affects health.
Health Effects of Marriage in Middle Age
The study evaluated data on 79,094 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Participants ranged in age from 50-79 and were evaluated over the course of three years. Researchers tracked the participants’ weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, smoking history, use of alcohol, exercise habits, and diet.
They then divided women into three groups: women who married or entered a long-term relationship during the study; those who separated or divorced during the study; and those whose marital status did not change—remaining either single or married—during the study period.
All of the women who were unmarried when the study began gained some weight during the study, which is not uncommon as women age. However, women who got married gained an average of two additional pounds more than their unmarried peers. Women who got married and those who remained single both experienced drops in diastolic blood pressure, but single women experienced a greater drop. Single women also drank less alcohol than those who married.
Is Marriage Good for Women?
Researchers have long debated the health benefits of marriage. While most research suggests marriage improves men’s health, the data on women is less clear. One study linked marital problems to health issues such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack for women, but not for men. Another study found married women did not gain the health benefits that married men gained. Women who divorced in their twenties were also less likely than those who stayed married to experience metabolic syndrome.
- Change in marital status post-menopause may impact health. (2017, February 6). Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-02-health-postmenopausal-women-divorce.html
- Knapton, S. (2015, June 11). Marriage is more beneficial for men than women, study shows. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/14/marriage-is-more-beneficial-for-men-than-women-study-shows/
- Kutob, R. M., Yuan, N. P., Wertheim, B. C., Sbarra, D. A., Loucks, E. B., Nassir, R., . . . Thomson, C. A. (2017). Relationship between marital transitions, health behaviors, and health indicators of postmenopausal women: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative. Journal of Women’s Health. doi:10.1089/jwh.2016.5925
- Tamkins, T. (2009, March 6). Unhappily ever after: Why bad marriages hurt women’s health. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/06/marriage.women.heart/index.html?_s=PM%3AHEALTH
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