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Study Reveals How a Happy Marriage Can Ruin Your Health

Update Date: Apr 04, 2013 12:07 PM EDT

Happy married newlyweds gain more weight in the early years of marriage than those with less blissful first years, according to a new small study.

The link between marital satisfaction and weight gain suggests that being in a happy marriage could actually increase a person's risk for various health problems related to being overweight, researchers claim.

Lead researcher Andrea L. Meltzer, a psychologist and assistant professor at the South Methodist University in Dallas, and her team said the latest findings, published online in the journal Health Psychology, challenge the long-held notion that quality relationships are always beneficial to one's health.

"On average, spouses who were more satisfied with their marriage were less likely to consider leaving their marriage, and they gained more weight over time," Meltzer said in statement. "In contrast, couples who were less satisfied in their relationship tended to gain less weight over time."

Meltzer explains that spouses who are satisfied in the marriage are less motivated to attract an alternative mate.  Therefore, happily married couples relax efforts to keep a healthy weight.

The study is based on data from 169 first-married newlywed couples whose marital satisfaction and weight were tracked over the course of four years.

While the latest study shows how being in a happy marriage can actually make people engage in behaviors that can harm health, past research also found that being blissfully married can also increase the chances of people taking up health maintenance behaviors.

"For example, studies have found that satisfied couples are more likely to take medications on time and schedule annual physicals," Meltzer explained. "Yet the role of marital satisfaction and actual health is less clear."

For the latest study, Meltzer and her team found that spouses who were less happy in their marriage were more likely to consider leaving their partner and on average gained less weight over time.

"So these findings suggest that people perhaps are thinking about their weight in terms of appearance rather than health," she said.

Researchers said the findings suggest that young couples should be educated and encouraged to think about their weight as a factor of maintaining their health.

"We know that weight gain can be associated with a variety of negative health consequences, for example diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Meltzer said. "By focusing more on weight in terms of health implications as opposed to appearance implications, satisfied couples may be able to avoid potentially unhealthy weight gain over time in their marriages."

The findings are published in the journal Health Psychology.

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