Body Mass Index Linked To Happiness In Marriages

A lower body-mass index score might be an indicator of a happier marriage – if the woman is thinner than her husband, that is.

New research out of the University of Tennessee suggests that married couples are happier when the wife has a lower BMI score than her husband. The body-mass index is a widely-used measure of body fat.

Researchers looked at data from 169 newlywed couples aged 35 and younger over a four-year period. Results showed that husbands were happier at the beginning when their wives had a lower BMI score than they did. Wives were also more satisfied over time when their BMI was lower than their husband’s score. The study controlled for marital stress, depression, and other factors that could have explained the results.

While the study doesn’t prove a causal relationship between body health and happiness, its results suggest that marital interventions aimed at improving relationships could benefit from addressing body image.

“The great take-home message from our study is that women of any size can be happy in their relationships with the right partner,” said Andrea Meltzer, lead author of the study, as quoted by PsychCentral. “It’s relative weight that matters, not absolute weight. It’s not that they have to be small.”

Ninety-four percent of the married partners involved in the study were white, which could have played a role in the results. Additionally, the study focused on young couples, who could potentially consider relative weight more important than older couples.

"The effects of relative weight could definitely change over time," said Meltzer, as quoted by ABC News. "As attractiveness plays less of a role, perhaps relative weight has less of an effect on satisfaction."

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