It’s only healthy to wish your ex some ill, especially if it’s just a few extra inches around the waist. And if your ex is a man around 59 years old, you may get your wish, statistically speaking.
A new study published this month in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that, when their marriages come to an end, men turn to a much worse diet than women do, making the single life more dangerous than it might sound.
The study followed just under 11,600 men and women averaging 59 years old across the United Kingdom, surveying them once between 1993 and 1997 and again between 1998 and 2002. At the beginning and end of the 3.6-year period, participants estimated how many fruits (choosing from 11 kinds) and vegetables (choosing from 26) they ate. The changes in amount and variety gave the study its measure of the healthiness of participants’ divorce diets.
By the end of the study, 1.2 percent of men and 1.7 percent of women became separated or divorced. (The study also separately measured participants whose spouses had died.) Among them, the men ate 0.6 fewer grams of fruit per day than their married counterparts did, and with less variety. Divorced and separated women, on the other hand, didn’t change their habits much.
Veggie intake fared much worse. Separated and divorced men cut their intake by 35 grams per day, compared to men who stayed married. Again, changes in the women’s diets didn’t change in a statistically significant way.
“If you look at men and women in this age group, women always do better with vegetables and fruit,” said Joan Salge Blake, a professor of nutrition and health sciences at Boston University, citing data from the USDA. “And that’s right off the bat.”
She suggested that, following the end of a marriage, people may be less motivated to eat well-planned, balanced meals.
“I think, as you’re no longer living with another person, there’s less of an incentive to eat meals together,” she said. “You’ll throw things together, or not have a complete meal.”
And while the toll a divorce takes on the emotions is considerable, studies have shown that the heart itself suffers when produce intake dips, and can increase the likelihood of cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
As the professor points out: “You have to remember, you’re not breaking up with fruits and vegetables, you’re breaking up with a person.”