Men Who Remarry Tend to Gain Weight, Ignore Health

Most men who remarry let their weight and health go by the wayside and essentially become couch potatoes, Boston scientists have found.

Epidemiologist Patricia Mong Eng, ScD, and colleagues examined the dietary and health behaviors of 40,000 U.S. men aged 40 to 75. Men answered questions every four years on their marital status, diet, and health.

Compared to men who remained single after a divorce or spouse’s death, remarried men increased their body mass index (BMI) – an indirect indicator of body fat. In addition, remarried men worked out much less. The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The good news is that remarried men actually eat better than those who remain single. Remarried men, particularly younger, widowed men, tend to eat a lot more vegetables and lean poultry and drink less alcohol and fewer sugary drinks.

On the other hand, divorce or death of a spouse had detrimental effects on the health habits of men who never remarried. Overall, marital breakup, or the death of a spouse, led to the consumption of more fast food compared with men who stayed married. Over time, vegetable intake decreased and alcohol consumption increased in both divorced and widowed men.

The results are consistent with previous studies that show that marital breakup or dissolution resulted in higher alcohol intake and weight loss, while entry into marriage promotes weight gain and less alcohol use.

Researchers say doctors should be aware of a man’s marital status because marital breakup has a negative overall impact on a man’s health.

By Kelli Miller Stacy, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: News release, BMJ Specialist Journals. Eng, P. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, January 2005, vol 59: pp 56-62.