After Divorce, Men Stop Eating Vegetables

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By Gillie Houston Posted May 24, 2016

A new study shows that divorce wreaks havoc on diet, but only for men.

Divorce drastically changes a number of things: living situations, family relations, and, you might assume, how you eat. A new study suggests that divorce wreak does indeed wreak havoc on diet, but only for men.

The results, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, showed that after the end of a marriage, women's diets don't change significantly, while some men's deteriorate so dramatically it could have clinical ramifications. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the study focused on how changes in marital status—including divorce, separation, and death of a spouse—affect the way they eat.

The healthfulness of the participants' diet was measured by the amount and variety of vegetables and fruits eaten. The 11,577 participants between the ages of 40 and 80 were given diet assessments from 1993-1997 and again from 1998-2002. At the time of the first assessment, 89 percent of men and 78 percent of women were married. Over the next 4 years, 2.4 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women became separated, divorced, or widowed—the group from which the study drew their data.

In male study participants who went through a change in marriage status, post-marriage fruit and vegetable consumption was reduced by about 25 percent, and their diets overall became less varied. However, this trend wasn't reflected in the diets of women.

"For this generation, born in the 1920s to 1960s, food skills and behaviors would have been highly gendered, with women having primary responsibility for shopping and preparing meals," says lead author Pablo Monsivais of the possible reason men's diets change while women's stay the same.

In terms of alcohol, the amount women drank every week reduced by about one drink from when they were married, and men's alcohol consumption stayed the same. While the length and quality of the marriage and the reason for the marriage's end wasn't taken into account throughout the study, one thing is certain: Many men could use a lesson in healthful eating before the divorce papers are signed, sealed, and delivered.

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