It sounds totally crazy, we know, but it’s true. To come to this finding, University of Michigan researchers had more than 2,000 married individuals completed questions about their waist circumference, marriage quality, and stress levels over the course of four years. After sorting through the data they discovered that 70 percent of the wives had a higher risk for weight gain and illnesses if their partner was chronically stressed. Men’s waist circumference also swelled when their wives were feeling tense, anxious, or preoccupied, but to a lesser extent. Only 66 percent of the husbands in the study were affected. And we’re not just talking about a few extra pounds here, people. About nine percent of the participants showed a 10 percent increase in waist circumference during the study, which represents, on average, an addition of four-inches of stomach fat. Yikes!
What’s up with the discrepancy? Husbands usually report higher marital quality, so when stress hits, it’s probably less emotionally taxing, explains the study’s lead author Kira Birditt. While the study focused on 50-and-over couples that had been married for about 34 years, younger couples are likely affected too, but to a lesser extent since they’re generally healthier.
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Although the study didn’t address how couples should cope with stress, other findings suggest that figuring out solutions and goals together, rather than individually, can help both partners cope during tough times—which can help those excess pounds remain at bay.