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Living Alone Might Make You Thinner

Dorathy Gass

A recent study, which is set to be published in the January 2016 issue of Journal of Family Issues, reveals that those who are single and living alone (regardless of sexual orientation, divorce status, or those never married) are found to have a lower body mass index (BMI). On the opposite side of the spectrum, those living with someone or who are married seemed to have increased BMIs.

Jay Teachman, Western Washington University, reviewed data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth, looking at over 3,000 participants; checking marital status, body weight, and any changes in relationships (i.e. breakups, divorces, etc.). Reviewing 20 years of these individuals’ data, he looked at participants BMIs from the teen age years to middle age (somewhere from 39 to 42 years of age). Teachman noticed that after a divorce, individuals would often go through temporary weight loss, which was probably brought on by stress. He also stated that couples might be heavier because they organize, cook, and share meals together.

Teachman does note that the body weight difference between single versus coupled up individuals was approximately three pounds at various points in time. Still, three pounds, and a higher BMI could place an average participant into the category of obesity. In addition, the cut-off point in the data was 42 years of age; so there is potential for additional weight-gaining (or loss) in future years.

Teachman also found a surprising racial trend. White women experienced the least rapid gain when it came to weight; while black women (single or coupled up), experienced the most rapid weight gain. Teachman noted that men and women, seemed to react to marital status changes in the same way; which seems to erase the idea that women are more sensitive when it comes to a divorce than their seemingly ex ‘better halves’.

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