Marital Status, Marital Transitions, and Body Mass: Gender, Race, and Life Course Considerations

Debra J. Umberson, University of Texas at Austin
Hui Liu, University of Texas at Austin

In this study, we adopt a life course perspective to understand how body mass changes over time. We direct particular attention to marital status and marital transitions in relation to change in body mass over the life course. Moreover, we consider whether and how marital and body mass patterns vary by race and gender over the life course. Results from a national 3-wave panel survey in the U.S. (the Americans’ Changing Lives Survey) covering an 8-year period suggest that 1) the transition into marriage is associated with weight gain for men and women—especially when first marriage occurs at older ages; 2) the transition out of marriage due to divorce or widowhood is associated with weight loss, but this effect occurs more profoundly for men; and 3) we find no race differences in the impact of marital status/transitions on body mass.

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Presented in Session 39: Family and Health over the Life Course