Is Your Stressed-Out Partner Making You Fat?
If your spouse or significant other is stressed out, it might be a good idea to start watching your weight. That’s because your partner’s long-term stress levels may be adding inches to your waistline, suggests an intriguing new study.
A team of researchers sampled a group of 2,042 married individuals. All of the participants answered questions about their waist circumference, negative marriage quality, stress levels and other factors in 2006 and 2010. The couples were married for an average of 34 years.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that 66 percent of husbands and 70 percent of wives had in increased risk of obesity.
However, it wasn’t the individuals own stress levels that were linked to a greater waist circumference over time. Rather, it was the stress levels of their partner.
“Marriage has powerful influences on health,” said Kira Birditt, the study’s lead author. “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.”
Interestingly, the more marriage negativity reported by husbands intensified the effects of stress on both partner’s waistlines. But when women reported lower negativity, it tended to affect only the husband’s waistline.
The researchers note that women tend to report greater negativity in marriage. Thus, women who report low levels of negativity may simply lack investment in their marriage. This could explain why their partner’s waistline is affected, but not their own.
The study does not address what you can do to reduce stress. However, other research finds that it’s important for couples to cope with their stress together, not alone. Additionally, when planning goals, the results are typically better when created together than individually.
SOURCE: Older adults gain weight when spouse is stressed out. News Release. University of Michigan. Oct 2016.