Too much age gap may take a toll on your marriage, finds study

The findings suggest that marriages with large age gaps are less resilient in the face of economic setbacks as compared to those in which the age difference between spouses is not much.

Researchers said similarly-aged couples are more in sync on life decisions that affect both partners.
Researchers said similarly-aged couples are more in sync on life decisions that affect both partners.(Shutterstock)

Age may be no bar for most when it comes to love and matrimony, but a new study suggests that the contentment in such unions fades away over time.

The findings also suggest that marriages with large age gaps are less resilient in the face of economic downturns as compared to those in which the spouses are of the same age. Research from University of Colorado at Boulder, US, revealed that men reported greater marital satisfaction when paired with a younger spouse, especially in the early years of marriage.

Study author Terra McKinnish said that men who have younger wives are the most satisfied and men who are married to older wives are the least satisfied. “Women are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands,” McKinnish added.


Researchers say age difference between spouses affects the couple’s ability to respond to economic setbacks. (Shutterstock)

That initial satisfaction erodes rapidly, however, after 6-10 years of marriage for the couples with a big age gap between the partners, say researchers. “Over time, the people who are married to a much older or younger spouse tend to have larger declines in marital satisfaction over time compared to those who are married to spouses who are similar in age,” McKinnish noted.

One mechanism for this decline could be how the age difference between spouses affects the couple’s ability to respond to economic setbacks, such as a job loss, McKinnish said.

The nationally representative sample was initially comprised of 7,682 households containing 19,914 individuals. The participants were re-surveyed every year with questions that measured various aspects of life satisfaction.

The results suggested that when couples have a large age difference, they tend to have a much larger decline in marital satisfaction when faced with an economic shock than couples that have a very small age difference.

A possible explanation for this, McKinnish said, is that similarly-aged couples are more in sync on life decisions that affect both partners (having children; general spending habits) and thus, may be better equipped to adjust to a negative financial shock.


The research appears online in the Journal of Population Economics.
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