People who get married before earning a college degree are 50% more likely to become obese, according to a study published in June's Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which tracked nearly 14,000 people from ages 11 to 19 in 1995 until they were in their 20s and 30s. Twenty-nine percent earned college degrees and 7% married before graduation.
After controlling for participants' pre-college body mass index (BMI) and parents' socioeconomic status, they found those who married before graduation were at greater risk for obesity, defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. Nearly 25% of those who got married first were obese compared with 17% of those who waited until they had a degree.
Earning a college degree has long been linked to better overall health, but marriage has been linked to weight gain.
"People who enter marriage with a college degree in hand have more resources to navigate the changes in lifestyle that come with marriage without shortchanging their health," says lead author Richard Miech, a University of Michigan research professor.
Stronger problem-solving skills and income levels may better prepare couples who marry later for obstacles to exercise and healthful food.
"On the other hand, our research suggests that people who earn a college degree after marrying may have established exercise and diet habits that are more difficult to change later," Miech said in a statement (Dotinga, U.S. News & World Report, 5/28; Khazan, The Atlantic, 5/28; American Sociological Association release, 5/28).
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