Marital Transitions and Short-Term Weight Changes

Dmitry Tumin, Ohio State University
Zhenchao Qian, Ohio State University

Marital transitions cause changes in diet and activity patterns that affect weight. Marriage is linked to weight gain, while marital exit is linked to weight loss. But it is uncertain whether the weight changes that follow marital transitions are significant enough to affect health. We draw on the epidemiological literature to identify short-term weight changes linked to an increased risk of all-cause mortality. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth ’79, we test whether recent marriages, divorces and separations affect the odds of experiencing various mortality-linked weight changes. We find that marriage predicts large weight gain and transition to obesity, outcomes that are linked to greater mortality risk. Notably, only a minority of newlyweds experience either outcome in the first two years of marriage. We also find that marital exits do not predict greater incidence of hazardous weight change, including weight loss, in early adulthood and midlife.

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Presented in Poster Session 3