How Marriage Later in Life Affects Women’s Health

Newly married couple holding handsMarriage 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.

Women who divorced lost weight and increased their physical activity. Women who remained married, by contrast, gained an average of two pounds and saw a decline in physical activity.

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.

A study of more than 800,000 married people found married men and women with cancer were more likely to survive.

References:

  1. 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
  2. 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/
  3. 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
  4. 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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  • Missy

    Missy

    February 22nd, 2017 at 11:30 AM

    Life is so unfair isn’t it? Something that is healthy for men is making women less happy and fatter! Oh good grief I think that it is stuff like this that keeps coming out that makes some women just wonder why they should even keep trying. It does so often feel like the odds are definitely not in our favor!

  • julia

    julia

    February 23rd, 2017 at 12:23 PM

    I wouldn’t trade being married for anything in the world and am even glad that my partner and I both waited until we were a little older with a bit more life experience under our belts before we took the plunge and got married . I do think that being married has made me much happier and probably healthier too because I now have someone that I want to stick around for. So the research showing that we gain weight and stuff, well maybe, but just because you are a little heavy doesn’t mean that you can’t also be happy and healthy at the same time.

  • CassandrBen

    CassandrBen

    February 24th, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    Not everything has to have a cause and effect relationship. Sometimes things just happen and it might look like the things are related but in actuality they aren’t.

  • damon

    damon

    February 26th, 2017 at 1:29 PM

    My wife and I have both been married before and have come together in a second marriage for each of us with each other. It has literally been the best thing that has happened to both of us. I think that since we have gotten together we both have a renewed sense of life and a reason for being that we didn’t have until we found one another. We have more to live for than we ever did before and as a result I probably feel better both physically and mentally than I have in years. So let the research say what it wants but I know what it has done for us and I will take it.

  • donna b

    donna b

    February 27th, 2017 at 3:35 PM

    Is there any proof that maybe the women who have waited until later are settling and not picking the right partner for them, which in turn could be detrimental to their health later on?

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