The study in Journal of Population Economics looked at 13 years’ worth of data from Aussie households. The researchers discovered men and women prefer a younger partner – but only at first. “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 study co-author Professor Terra McKinnish from the University of Colorado. “Women are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands.”
However, that initial satisfaction declines pretty quickly after 6-10 years if there’s a big age gap. “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.
And in more bad news for couples with big age gaps, the study found that these marriages are less resilient in the face of economic downturns, when compared to their similar-aged coupled mates. Think: a pay cut, job loss, failed investment etc.
McKinnish reckons this is because similar-aged couples are more in sync on life decisions like having kids and spending habits, so they might be able to cope better with an unexpected financial issue. Meanwhile, this kind of shake-up can expose underlying tensions in couples with big age gaps. So, as with all couples, communication is key!