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Research reveals married women diet much more than single women

Originally published 19 July 2004


A post-graduate economics researcher at the University of Warwick has surprisingly found that married women are much more likely to be on a diet than their single counter-parts – a result that totally contradicts current economic theories on dieting.

University of Warwick economics post-graduate Matthew Bending found that 41.5% of married women are trying to lose weight against just 29% of single women. Matthew used data compiled by ONS in 1999 and of the 1894 participants 542 (29%) were dieting.

Economics would normally suggest that single people are likely to diet to optimise their chances in the marriage market, but married people will put on weight as a sign of commitment to each other. Only those who are divorced or separated will diet again with their return to the marriage market.

Matthew’s surprise findings may indicate that some married women diet in preparation for a potential separation and the need to seek a new partner. He also argues concern for their husbands’ weight causes some women to diet so as to encourage him to do the same. She can manipulate what he eats because most couples eat their main meal together and women normally have control over expenditure on food. Joint diets involving both spouses can be more successful as there is a mutual incentive for them.

The research also found that there has been a massive 34% increase in the number of women dieting since 1980, and a 22% rise in the number of men dieting.

For further information contact:

Matthew Bending
Tel: 07813 333024.