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The quality of support in close relationships might have been an overlooked risk factor for weight gain in middle-aged and older adults.

26 November 2018

Social Support

A study using the Whitehall II dataset showed that low levels of conflict and excessive demands in the relationship with the closest person and high levels of positive emotional support such as being able to confide and sharing hobbies and interests with the closest person may be protective against central and general adiposity increase over midlife and older age, particularly in men.

These findings require further replication in population-based studies and, if confirmed, could inform early interventions aimed at managing conflict and improving emotional support in close relationships. For example, health care practitioners might be able to signpost organisations that help manage conflict and boost emotional support, whilst overweight individuals might be encouraged to consider whether their behavioural or psychological responses to lack of support in close relationships is something that might be contributing to their weight.

These results provide preliminary evidence suggesting that incorporating quality of close relationships in individual risk profiles for weight gain and early prevention aimed at improving the quality of social support in close relationships (e.g. managing conflict and improving emotional support in close relationships) may be beneficial.

The paper has been published by Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health:

Social support and trajectories of body mass index and waist to hip ratio from mid-adulthood to old age