Ending a marriage may lead to a deterioration in men’s diets that could have clinical significance, while women’s diets don’t change significantly, according to a study in Social Science & Medicine.
Previous studies have focused on how marriage affects people’s diet, but less is known about how changes in marital status affect what they eat, the study said. It looked at marriages that ended because of divorce, separation or being widowed.
Researchers assessed the health of participants’ diets by the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables consumed. Reduced consumption of fresh produce has been linked to greater risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer, while diets of limited variety are associated with Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, they said.
The research involved 11,577 participants aged about 40 to 80 in a large U.K. study, who underwent health assessments from 1993 to 1997 and again from 1998 to 2002. At both time points, the subjects estimated how much they ate among 11 fruits and 26 vegetables.
At the first health check, 89 percent of the men and 78 percent of the women were married. Over 3.6 years, 2.4 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women became separated, divorced or widowed.
Compared with men who stayed married, those whose marriage ended reduced by about 25 percent their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables over the course of the study. Their diets also became less varied. Changes in all the women’s diets weren’t statistically significant.
Alcohol consumption didn’t change significantly for men after their marriages ended. For women, separation and divorce led to a small but significant reduction in alcohol consumption, equivalent to about one drink a week, compared with staying married.
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