Newlyweds who are satisfied with their marriage tend to gain weight in the early years, putting them at an increased risk for various health problems, a new study has found.
Psychologist Andrea L Meltzer from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas conducted the study on marital satisfaction and weight gain.
"On average, spouses who were more satisfied with their marriage were less likely to consider leaving their marriage, and they gained more weight over time," Meltzer said.
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"In contrast, couples who were less satisfied in their relationship tended to gain less weight over time," Meltzer said.
The researchers said the findings challenge the long-held notion that quality relationships are always beneficial to one's health.
Instead, they said, the findings suggest that spouses who are satisfied in the marriage are less motivated to attract an alternative mate. As a result, satisfied spouses relax efforts to maintain their weight.
The study was based on data from 169 first-married newlywed couples whose marital satisfaction and weight were tracked over the course of four years.
The couples 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.
Spouses who were less happy in their marriage were more likely to consider leaving their partner, Meltzer said, and on average gained less weight over time.
"So these findings suggest that people perhaps are thinking about their weight in terms of appearance rather than health," she said.
"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," she said.
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology.