You’re a young woman. You’re sitting at a fancy restaurant with your boyfriend of a few years. Suddenly, he gets down on one knee and presents to you a shiny engagement ring and asks you to marry him.
You excitedly say yes, but according to a recent study done by the University of Arizona, as soon as you hit menopause, usually between the ages of 45 to 55, you might regret that answer.
The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study observed nearly 80,000 post-menopausal women over a three-year period to examine the relationship between divorce and health indicators such as blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index.
They also studied health behaviors such as diet pattern, alcohol use, physical activity and smoking.
They found that women who are married are more likely to have increased body mass index, drink more alcohol and exercise less.
Women who are divorced had polar-opposite results.
Experts say these results seem to go against everything we have always believed in. Marriage has long thought to be good for your health and your happiness.
But this new study indicates otherwise. Women who were going through a marital transition, such as divorce, had health outcomes that were better than those in marriage.
There are a little over 2 million new marriages every year in the United States. There are nearly a million divorces every year.
Arizona has one of the highest divorce rates, 10th in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Arizona is also considered a “no-fault” state, meaning neither party has to provide a specific reason for wanting to end their marriage.
Tucson resident Margo Darris, 53, has been divorced from her husband since September 2016 and gives many reasons for wanting a divorce.
“I found it difficult to live by my husband’s rules and desires. He is a good man, but I can’t and won’t live the way he wants to live,” she says. “He is never passionate and never wants to let me do anything by myself. I felt very smothered and controlled.”
A 2015 study done by the American Sociological Association involving more than 2,000 married couples found that nearly 70 percent of women initiate the divorce.
Ms. Darris was one of those women.
But her story is a little bit different. She has decided to casually date her ex-husband, rather than be married to him.
This is because ever since her divorce, she has seen her health skyrocket.
For about two years, Darris spent time working out at a gym near her office. When she retired from her job, her ex-husband talked her out of working out, citing the cost of the gym as a reason to quit.
“I quit and gained a bunch of weight and starting looking and feeling horrible. Once I divorced him, I have started working out daily and look and feel much better,” Darris says.
Dr. Randa Kutob, the UA study’s lead author, says that in addition to married women exercising less, marriage tends to lead to more regular meals with larger portion sizes leading to weight gain.
But why do men seem happier and healthier in marriage than women?
Although the study didn’t look at men, Kutob attributed this to women helping men keep up on their health.
“Men who marry tend to have lower mortality while men who divorce have higher mortality. In men, it has been proposed that their partners help them take care of their health,” she says.
As for Darris, she is giving her ex-husband opportunity to grow and change. But she is going to focus on herself first and foremost.
Would she marry him again? Probably not.
“I will never let a man, or anyone for that matter, talk me out of doing what is good for me again,” she says.
Jessica Carpenter is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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