Having a large age difference in the couple brings greater satisfaction to both in the short term but this happiness fades over time. This is the conclusion of the study developed by scientists at the University of Colorado in Boulder (USA) and published in the Journal of Population Economics.
The researchers analyzed 13 years of longitudinal data from thousands of Australian households, identifying a pattern between unhappiness and marriages with notable age difference. The results also suggest that these couples (in which one is much younger than the other) are less resilient to economic recessions relative to their peers of similar age.
This conclusion may not be surprising either, since the study confirmed that men were the ones who felt the greatest marital satisfaction when they went out with a younger woman, especially in the first years of cohabitation. The same thing happens on the contrary (older woman and young man).
“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. Women are also particularly dissatisfied when married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if married to husbands younger, “says Terra McKinnish, co-author of the paper.
However, this initial happiness does not last long. It erodes rapidly after 6-10 years of marriage in relation to couples with a large age difference between them.
“Over time, people who are married to a much older or younger spouse tend to have a greater decrease in happiness over time, compared to those who are married to spouses of similar age,” McKinnish said.
One explanation for this decline in happiness could be that the age difference between the spouses affects the partner’s ability to respond to negative economic fluctuations, such as a loss of employment, for example.
“We see how couples respond to negative shocks, and in particular whether they have a major economic problem or a worsening of household finances. We find that when couples have a large age difference, they tend to have a much marital satisfaction when faced with an economic setback, compared to couples who have a very small age difference, “McKinnish states.
According to the authors, a possible explanation for this could be that couples of similar age are more in sync with life decisions affecting both (having children, general spending habits) and, therefore, are better equipped for to adapt to a sudden financial problem. On the contrary, an unexpected financial shock could expose underlying tensions and mismatches in pairs with a larger age gap.
The findings are based on data from the Australian Household Income and Employment Dynamics Survey (HILDA), a longitudinal study that began in 2001. The nationally representative sample was initially composed of 7,682 households with 19,914 individuals and participants were re – surveyed each year with questions that measure different aspects of life satisfaction.