October 23, 2016 – Older Adults Gain Weight When Spouse is Stressed Out
Stress isn’t good for your waist line. For older married couples, the added pounds may be caused by a spouse’s long-term stress levels.
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.
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 caregiving.
Participants came from the nationally longitudinal Health and Retirement Study at the U-M Institute for Social Research. 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.