Happier Couples Tend to Gain More Weight Over Time

Couple whose relationship is on the rocks or who are considering divorce may maintain the appearances in order to attract other mates

B Tal

For married couples, waistlines could reflect happiness. New research shows that newlyweds who report feeling satisfied with their marriage tend to gain weight soon after they get hitched, while those who ponder divorce tend to stay slimmer.

These findings came from a study of 169 newlywed couples, all in their first marriage. The researchers tracked the couples over four years, measuring their weight and questioning them about their marital satisfaction twice a year. Happier couples, the researchers found, gained significantly more weight than those whose relationship was on the rocks.

It wasn’t obvious that this would be the case. One theory was that unhappy relationships would promote weight-gain: When people are stressed, they tend to lose their “self-regulatory ability” i.e. they might stress eat. On the other hand, however, the scientific mating market model suggests that people are primarily motivated to keep weight off by the desire to attract mates. Since happy couples are less concerned about attracting a new mate, the researchers reason, they’re less motivated to put in the effort to stay fit.

The researchers say their results challenge a long-held assumption that maintaining significant relationships always provide health benefits.

More from Smithsonian.com:

They Do Call It a Marriage Contract After All
Julia Child’s Recipe for a Thoroughly Modern Marriage