Being in a settled relationship increases the chances of weight gain, new research finds.
Over the 10 years of the study, couples put on more weight than single people.
The weight gain occurred despite couples eating more healthily, including consuming more fruits and vegetables.
It may be partly because couples feel free to ‘let themselves go’.
Having children may increase weight gain even more as parents tend to eat their snacks and leftovers.
The study’s authors write:
“…couples were more likely [than single people] to meet recommendations for fruit, vegetable, fast food and alcohol consumption, and they were more likely to be a non-smoker.
These findings are consistent with the results from previous research showing that being in a committed romantic relationship is associated with health promoting behaviours.”
The conclusions come from a study of 15,001 people in Australia who were followed for 10 years.
The results showed that couples put on more weight than single people in this period.
It may be partly because people tend to eat more together than they do alone:
“…whilst family meals may include more healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and less fast food, people often consume larger portion sizes and more calories in the company of others than they do alone[…]
Further, the unhealthy but tempting eating habits of one spouse may migrate to the other.
For example, [one study] showed that husbands detrimentally influence the diet of their wives by increasing the consumption of fat and meat.”
Couples are also usually less concerned with attracting a partner, the authors write:
“Another interesting explanation is the marriage-market theory which suggests that married people who are no longer concerned with attracting a mate gain weight.
Entry into cohabitation or marriage is associated with a decline in the desire to maintain weight for the purpose of attracting a mate.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE (Schoeppe et al., 2018).