Couples with a significant age gap are likely to be less satisfied with their marriage over time than those of a similar age, research has found.
A study by the University of Colorado Boulder found both men and women reported greater marital satisfaction with younger spouses, but that satisfaction faded quickly over time in marriages with a significant age gap between the partners.
The findings also suggested that couples with large age gaps are far less resilient in the face of economic downturns than those of a similar age.
Researchers examined 13 years’ worth of data from thousands of Australian households for the study, which was published online in the Journal of Population Economics.
Men reported greater marital satisfaction when paired with a younger spouse, especially in the early years of marriage, while men who were married to older women were 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,” said study co-author Terra McKinnish, a professor of economics at CU Boulder.
However that initial satisfaction erodes rapidly after six to 10 years of marriage for couples with a big age gap.
“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,” she continued.
McKinnish said one reason for this could be how the age difference affects the couple’s ability to respond to negative economic shocks, such as job loss.
“We looked at how couples respond to negative shocks and in particular, if they have a major bad economic shock or worsening of their household finances,” she said.
“We find 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.”