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Marital status changes and body weight changes: a US longitudinal analysis


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  • Sobal, Jeffery
  • Rauschenbach, Barbara
  • Frongillo, Edward A.
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    The role of spouse is associated with better health. The dynamics of spousal roles can be represented by marital trajectories that may remain stable or may change by entry into marriage, dissolution of marriage, or death of a spouse. Body weight is an important health-related characteristic that has been found to have mixed relationships with marital status. This analysis examined changes in marital status and body weight in 9043 adults in the US National Health and Nutrition Epidemiological Follow-up Survey (NHEFS), a longitudinal national study that interviewed and measured adults in a baseline assessment and reassessed them again in a follow-up approximately 10 years later. Men's and women's weights were differently associated with marital changes. Women who were unmarried at baseline and married at follow-up had greater weight change than those who were married at both times. Analysis of weight loss and weight gain separately revealed that sociodemographic variables, including marital change, were more predictive of variation in weight loss than weight gain. Unmarried women who married gained more weight than women married at both times. Men who remained divorced/separated and men who became widowed lost more weight than men married at both baseline and follow-up. These findings suggest that changes in social roles, such as entering or leaving marriage, influence physical characteristics such as body weight.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 56 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 7 (April)
    Pages: 1543-1555

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:7:p:1543-1555

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    Keywords: Marital status Weight change Obesity USA;


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    Cited by:
    1. Clark, Andrew E. & Etilé, Fabrice, 2011. "Happy house: Spousal weight and individual well-being," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1124-1136.
    2. Averett, Susan L. & Sikora, Asia & Argys, Laura M., 2008. "For better or worse: Relationship status and body mass index," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 330-349, December.
    3. Umberson, Debra & Liu, Hui & Mirowsky, John & Reczek, Corinne, 2011. "Parenthood and trajectories of change in body weight over the life course," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(9), pages 1323-1331.
    4. Wilson, Sven E., 2012. "Marriage, gender and obesity in later life," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 431-453.
    5. Reczek, Corinne, 2012. "The promotion of unhealthy habits in gay, lesbian, and straight intimate partnerships," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 1114-1121.
    6. Nagata, Jason M. & Valeggia, Claudia R. & Barg, Frances K. & Bream, Kent D.W., 2009. "Body mass index, socio-economic status and socio-behavioral practices among Tz'utujil Maya women," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 96-106, March.
    7. Susan Averett & Laura Argys & Julia Sorkin, 2013. "In sickness and in health: an examination of relationship status and health using data from the Canadian National Public Health Survey," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 599-633, December.
    8. Jay Teachman & Lucky Tedrow, 2013. "Veteran Status and Body Weight: A Longitudinal Fixed-Effects Approach," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 199-220, April.
    9. Wilson, Chris M. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "How Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health? A Survey of the Longitudinal Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 1619, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Sharon Bzostek & Audrey Beck, 2008. "Family Structure And Child Health Outcomes In Fragile Families," Working Papers 1081, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..


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