According to a Pew Research Center study released on December 14, 2011, barely one half of adult Americans are married. And, while it has been debated, common knowledge is that one half of all American marriages will end in divorce.
Either way, both marriage and divorce are important life events, which have a significant impact on one’s health and psyche.
In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined 5,000 patients’ medical records in hopes of determining whether stressful events cause illness. They developed a rating scale, which included 43 examples of life’s most stressful events, including divorce, which ranked second highest only after the death of a spouse.
The study confirmed that there is a strong correlation between the list of 43 stressful life events and the risk of and existence of illness.
1. Both Marriage and Divorce Impact Weight
Countless studies have linked stress with both weight loss and weight gain.
One recent study at Ohio State University of more than 10,000 people determined
that both marriage and divorce lead to weight gain, with surprising differences
among men and women.
The study found that men are more likely to gain weight subsequent to a divorce while women are more likely to gain weight subsequent to marriage.
The lead author of the study, doctoral student Dmitry Tumin, explained that “Divorces for men, and to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.”
2. The Older You Are When you Marry or Divorce: the Greater the Impact
The study also found that age plays a factor in one’s risk of significant
weight changes upon marriage and divorce. Specifically, those who married
or divorced in their 30’s were more at risk for unhealthy weight
gain than those who married or divorced in their 20’s, with the
negative effects growing stronger with age.
The study is unable to tell us why these differences occur, but the scientists offered some theories: as after marriage, women take on the responsibility of caring for others rather than themselves, men generally eat healthier after marriage, and men are more likely to get regular check-ups.
3. How to Avoid Gaining or Losing Weight During Divorce
So, what is the take home message? Don’t get married? Don’t get divorced?
No, it is to take care of yourself throughout all of life’s difficult transitions, including marriage and divorce. Seek support from friends and loved ones. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Be mindful of your feelings and actions. Be patient with yourself. And, if you find yourself in the midst of a divorce, consider mediation.
Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution, which many couples employ when ending their marriage. Mediation is non-adversarial and allows parties to work together collaboratively at their own pace with the assistance of a skilled mediator.
The mediator may be an attorney or a therapist, but will have specialized knowledge of the issues involved in divorce, custody, and other family law matters. The mediator will not represent either party, but will act as a joint neutral whose sole goal is to assist you in reaching an agreement with which you and your partner are happy.
Mediation means that you do not go to court. It means that you maintain control over the process and the outcome of your matter without having to place some of the most important and lasting decisions of your life in the hands of an overworked judge who knows only as much about you and your family as he or she can gather from a short review of your case file.
Mediation allows parties to create their own unique solutions, to “think outside the box,” which may or may not involve following the law. Mediation is the most-timely and efficient method of resolving disputes for parties who are willing to engage in the process.
While the research comparing the psychological impact of litigation to mediation is sparse, it does, along with common sense, tell us that two parties working together with a skilled mediator, maintaining control of the process and the outcome, while avoiding the financial and emotional costs of litigation fare better psychologically than those involved in protracted litigation. And if these parties fare better psychologically, it stands to reason that their bodies may fare better as well, keeping the unwanted pounds off.
Jessica Watson is a Liaise Trained mediator and California-licensed attorney. Ms. Watson’s practice focuses exclusively on family law, with a strong focus in child custody and child advocacy.
David D. Stein has been an attorney for 20 years and the founder of Liaise® Divorce Solutions. He is a trained divorce mediator, dispute resolution specialist and lecturer on non-violent conflict management techniques and tools.