Partner Stressed? Here Comes the Pounds (For You)

Well, this is encouraging.  Did you know that when your partner is under stress, you gain weight?

Really.  Isn't that depressing?  But according to a new study, older adults gain weight when a spouse is stressed out.

Oh my. 

A new University of Michigan study looked at how the negative quality of marriage can be detrimental for weight gain—possibly leading to obesity—when couples 50 and older are stressed. The results varied by gender, newswise.com reports.

The study specifically focused on chronic stress, which is an ongoing circumstance occurring for more than a year and threatens to overwhelm an individual's resources, such as financial problems, difficulties at work or long-term care-giving.

The sample included 2,042 married individuals who completed questions about their waist circumference, negative marriage quality, stress levels and other factors in 2006 and 2010. Couples were married for an average of 34 years.

Greater negative quality ties as reported by husbands exacerbated the effects of partner stress on both husbands' and wives' waist circumference.

Interestingly, lower negative quality ties reported by wives exacerbated the effect of wife stress on husbands' waist circumference, said Kira Birditt, a research associate professor at ISR's Survey Research Center.

For the increased risk of obesity, 59 percent of the husbands and 64 percent of the wives were at higher risk of disease in the study's first assessment, whereas 66 percent of husbands and 70 percent of wives were at increased risk at the study's conclusion.

Now I can't remember when my husband wasn't stressed (he's a dentist and he hates what he does), and I suppose, since I've struggled with my weight all my life, there may be some truth to this.   But I can't say that his stress has too much to do with whether I eat too much (though I did gain quite a bit of weight when I was diagnosed with a serious illness 10 years ago).

About 9 percent of the participants showed a 10 percent increase in waist circumference, which represented an average increase of four inches of more over four years, the study indicated.

"Marriage has powerful influences on health," say study authors. "The stress experienced by partners, and not the individual's stress, was associated with increased waist circumference. This effect of stress was even stronger in particular spousal relationships."

Husbands, she said, usually experience lower negative marital quality and thus greater negative feelings may be less expected and more harmful. Because women tend to report greater negative marital quality, low levels of negative marital quality among wives may be an indicator of a lack of investment in the marriage.

And younger couples?  You're at risk, too.

Great. Yet another reason to gain weight.



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