Some 'bad' news for women enjoying a happy married life. A University of Queensland study has found that women who live with a partner gain more weight than those without a partner or child.
The study, published in the January edition of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also found that women also experience a larger weight gain after having their first baby.
The work, by researchers from the UQ Schools of Population Health and Human Movement Studies was highlighted in the New York Times last week.
Professor Wendy Brown, Professor Annette Dobson and Richard Hockey co-authored the study.
As part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's health, the researchers surveyed more than 6000 Australian women over a 10 year period to assess the factors associated with weight gain in young women.
At the start of the survey, the women ranged in age from 18 to 23. Each woman periodically completed a survey with more than 300 questions about weight and height, age, level of education, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, medications used and a wide range of other health and health care issues.
By the end of the study, more than half the women had college degrees, about three-quarters had partners and half had had at least one baby.
Women with a baby and partner gained the most weight, followed by those with a partner and no baby. Women without a partner or children still gained weight, but at a lower rate. Almost all of the weight gain happened with the first baby; subsequent births had little effect.
It must be noted some significant changes occurred by the end of the study period, like
there were fewer smokers and risky drinkers than at the beginning, more women who exercised less and a larger proportion without paid employment.
But even after adjusting for all of these factors and more, the differences in weight gain among women with and without babies, and among women with and without partners, remained.
Despite the study's limitations — weight was self-reported, for example, and the sample size diminished over time because people dropped out — other experts found the results valuable, New York Times reports.
Professor Dobson and co-authors suggest that the weight gain among all women may be explained by changing social and behavioural factors. Perhaps a more active social life may help explain why women with partners gain more weight.
"This is a general health concern as obesity rates continue to increase," said Professor Dobson.
"Getting married or moving in with a partner and having a baby are events that trigger even further weight gain. We must look at ways to prevent health risks by focusing on the times when women need to be especially careful."