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Age Difference Between Partners May Become an Issue Over Time

Age Difference Between Partners May Become an Issue Over Time

Although being married to someone significantly younger may be fun at first, a new study finds that a large age gap between spouses is linked to declining marital satisfaction over time.

Specifically, University of Colorado Boulder investigators found men and women both report greater marital satisfaction with younger spouses, but that satisfaction fades over time in marriages with a significant age gap between the partners.

Moreover, researchers discovered economic challenges appear to be more of an issue among partners with large age gaps relative to their similarly-aged counterparts.

In the study, published online in the Journal of Population Economics, investigators examined 13 years’ worth of longitudinal data from thousands of Australian households.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the findings show that men reported greater marital satisfaction when paired with a younger spouse, especially in the early years of marriage. But the reverse appears to be true as well.

“We find that men who are married to younger wives are the most satisfied, and men who are married to older wives are the least satisfied,” said Terra McKinnish, a professor of economics at CU Boulder and a co-author of the new study.

“Women are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands.”

That initial satisfaction erodes rapidly, however, after six to 10 years of marriage for the couples with a big age gap between the partners.

“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,” said McKinnish.

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

“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, that 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.

By contrast, an unexpected financial shakeup could expose underlying tensions and mismatches in couples with a larger age gap.

The findings are based on data from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, a longitudinal study that began in 2001.

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

Wang-Sheng Lee, a professor of economics at Deakin University in Australia and a research associate at IZA, co-authored the research.

Source: University of Colorado

Age Difference Between Partners May Become an Issue Over Time

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2017). Age Difference Between Partners May Become an Issue Over Time. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/08/04/age-difference-between-partners-may-become-an-issue-over-time/124194.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 4 Aug 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Aug 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.