Age difference is a controversial topic in relationships.
No one would bat an eye about a couple being a couple of years apart.
But when the age discrepancy is obvious, people start talking.
So let’s clear the air on age gap relationships and let the facts and figures speak for themselves.
Global Trends In Age Gap Relationships
1. In a 2010 global study on age disparity in dating, no age group or country had women preferring men significantly younger than men’s preferences for women.
Across cultures, women prefer men who are considerably older or at least the same age.
2. Most married couples in the US, Canada, South America, and Europe only have a three-year age difference.
3. In Spain, men marry two and three years younger women.
4. A 2010 study on the age gap between spouses in Denmark echoes the traditional setup of most men marrying younger women.
- 75% of married men 50 years and older are married to women more than a year younger. Only 10% are at least a year younger than their wives.
- 65% of married women 50 years and older are married to older men. Only 15% are older than their husbands by more than a year.
5. Around 8% of heterosexual relationships in Western countries have an age gap of 10+ years.
Average Age Gap Between Married Couples (5 Biggest Countries)
6. The average age gap between married couples in the biggest countries:
Average Age Difference
7. Western Africa is the region with the largest average age gap between married couples worldwide at 6.6 years.
8. Gambia is the country with the largest average age gap between married couples worldwide at 14.5 years.
9. Of the 20 countries with the largest age gaps between married couples, 17 practice polygyny (one man is married to several women).
Of these 17 countries, the men are 6.1 to 9.2 years older.
10. Global spousal age gaps where husbands are older than their wives contribute to women being about twice as likely as men to grow old alone.
- 20% of women ages 60 and older live alone
- 11% of men ages 60 and older live alone
Average Age Gap By Religion
11. Among religious groups worldwide, husbands are typically older than their wives.
The average age gap between married couples by religion is as follows:
Average Age Difference
Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald, UN, Cairn, National Library of Medicine, BBC, PEW Research, Soocial, UN
Age Gap Relationships in the US
12. In 2014, the average age gap in US heterosexual relationships was 2.3 years.
- For male-male couples, the percentage is higher at 25%.
- The percentage is 15% for female-female couples.
- 1% of US heterosexual couples have an age gap of 28+ years.
13. The 2017 US census shows the country follows gender norms in terms of age difference for heterosexual married couples.
- The husband is older in 85.1% of such couples.
- 14.4% of couples, the wife is older.
14. Heterosexual married couples in the US with an age gap where the man is older:
Age Difference (husband is older)
1 - 2 years
2 - 3 years
4 - 5 years
6 - 9 years
10 - 14 years
15 - 19 years
at least 20 years
15. Heterosexual married couples in the US with an age gap where the woman is older:
Age Difference (wife is older)
2 - 3 years
4 - 5 years
6 - 9 years
10 - 14 years
15 - 19 years
at least 20 years
What Is The "Half +7 Rule" In A Relationship?
16. The “half plus seven rule” says an acceptable age difference would be half the age of the man plus seven years.
In the US, the percentage of female-male marriages that “break” the rule
- from 30% at the start of the 20th century
- to just above 10% in 1980
- to 3% today.
However, men in same-sex marriages are more likely to “break” the rule.
15% of same-sex marriages between men don’t follow the “half plus seven rule.”
Age Gap Relationships in Canada
17. 2.9 million couples in marriage or common law relationships have an age gap of 4+ years.
18. Heterosexual couples with an age gap:
Partners are within 3 years of each other’s age — 58%
The man is older:
- 4 to 6 years — 20%
- 7 to 9 years — 9%
- 10+ years — 7%
The woman is older:
- 4 to 6 years — 4%
- 7 to 9 years — 1%
- 10+ years — 1%
19. 59% of female same-sex couples have an age gap of 4+ years, while 18% have an age gap of 10+ years.
20. 64% of male same-sex couples have an age gap of 4+ years, while 26% have an age gap of 10+ years
21. In 39% of common-law relationships, women are at least 10 years older than their partners.
22. In 24% of common-law relationships, men are at least 10 years older than their partners.
23. Couples with a greater age gap have lower combined incomes than couples of similar ages.
- Couples within 3 years of age have a 5% higher average combined income than all other couples.
- Couples where men are 10+ years older have combined incomes that are about 9% below the overall average.
- Couples where women are significantly older have combined incomes that are 17% below the overall average.
Source: Statistics Canada
Age Gap Relationship Trends Over Time
24. The percentage of UK couples where the bride is older than the groom steadily rises over the years.
In 1963, 15% of brides were older.
By 1998, it was 26%.
In 2011, the number of women in committed relationships with men five+ years younger had almost tripled since the 70s.
25. In the US, marriages where the woman is older than her partner have increased from 6.4% in 2000 to 7.7% in 2012.
26. The age gap between married couples in the US and Europe was trending smaller in 2000, with the peak average at 3.3 years in Southern Europe.
27. According to Facebook, the age gap for gay couples gets larger the older they get.
- The age gap is two to three years for those in their early 20s
- The age gap is seven years for those in their 40s
Source: BBC, Research Gate, UN, Facebook
Age Gap Relationships and Social Approval
28. Large age gaps that go beyond 10 years face social disapproval.
29. Age-gap couples are more likely to break up if they believe their loved ones and community disapprove of their relationship.
30. While men and women prefer to date someone their age, they are still open to having a relationship with someone 10 to 15 years older or younger.
Related: 50+ Date Night Ideas
31. In a 2012 study where men and women were asked about their ideal partner’s age, men preferred younger women while women preferred older men.
- On average, men were open to women 4.5 years older, while they preferred women 10 years younger.
- Women preferred men eight years older, while they were open to men five years younger.
32. Even though most Americans believe it’s socially acceptable for men and women to date someone 10+ years younger, perceptions are still skewed by gender biases.
- 60% believe it’s okay for a woman to date someone younger by 10 years+ compared to 71% who think it’s fine for a man to date someone younger by 10+ years.
- 75% of Americans over 35 believe it’s fine for a man to date someone 10+ years younger compared to 60% of Americans under 35 who believe the same.
- 65% of men say it’s fine for a woman to date someone 10+ years younger compared to 56% of women who say the same.
- 72% of men and 70% of women believe it’s fine for men to date younger women.
- 55% believe it’s more socially acceptable for a man to date someone 10+ years younger than for a woman to do the same.
33. Americans get less concerned about social acceptance regarding age-gap dating the older they get.
- 24% of Americans ages 18 to 34 are concerned about social acceptance
- 14% of Americans ages 35 to 54 are concerned about social acceptance
- 6% of Americans ages 55 and up are concerned about social acceptance
Related: 50+ Fun & Intimate Date Night Questions to Ask your Partner
Source: The Conversation, Springer Link, Ipsos, APA PsycNet
Age Gaps and Dating
34. A lot of Americans engage in age-gap dating.
- 39% have dated someone with a 10+ year gap
- Men are more likely than women to date someone that’s younger by 10+ years (25% of men, 14% of women)
- Women are more likely than men to date someone who is 10+ years older (28% of women, 21% of men)
- 57% of American singles are open to dating someone older by 10+ years
- 49% of American singles are open to dating someone younger by 10+ years
- Singles aged 35 or older are more open to dating someone younger by 10+ years.
35. 44% of women who’ve dated younger men and men who’ve dated older women say an organic connection influenced them the most to enter such a relationship.
36. Most successful conversations on the online dating service OKCupid are between older men and younger women.
- 61% are between older men and younger women
- 31% are between older women and younger men
- 9% are between men and women of the same age
Note that rounding up the figures put the total slightly above 100%.
Related: 87 Online Dating Statistics
37. On OKCupid, men generally send messages to significantly younger women, while women send messages to slightly older men.
Benefits of Age Gap Relationships
38. 74% of age-gap couples where the man is older have reported satisfying, healthy relationships.
39. Americans find age-gap dating to be more beneficial than challenging.
- The top two benefits to dating younger people are physical attractiveness, which is listed by 39% of Americans, and open-mindedness, which is listed by 37%.
- 46% of men list physical attractiveness as a benefit compared to 33% of women.
- The top two benefits to dating older people are emotional maturity, listed by 55%, and financial freedom, listed by 44%.
- The top perceived challenge to age-gap dating is not having anything in common, as cited by 25% of Americans.
Sources: APA PsycNet, Ipsos
Challenges of Age Gap Relationships
40. Women who marry men that are significantly older or younger are more likely to have shorter lifespans.
However, both men and women who are married are still more likely to live longer than men and women who are single.
41. There is a significant connection between the mortality rate of married men and the age gap they have with their wives.
The younger the wife is relative to her husband, the longer he is likely to live.
The older the wife is relative to her husband, the higher his mortality rate.
42. Wealthy married men older than their wives have a 5% elevated risk of dying.
How Does The Age Gap Influence Marital Satisfaction?
43. Marital satisfaction significantly decreases in couples with a larger age gap compared to couples that are around the same age:
Married couples with a zero to three-year age gap are more satisfied than those with a four to six-year gap.
And those couples are more satisfied than those with an age gap of seven or more years.
44. Couples with significant age gaps struggle more with domestic challenges such as financial difficulties and family planning.
45. According to a 2015 Korean study on age differences and depressive symptoms, age gaps in long-term relationships affect how likely it is for the couple to experience depression.
Couples around the same age had the lowest rates of depression.
The bigger the age gap, the higher the rate of depression gets.
Are Couples With A Large Age Gap More Likely To Divorce?
46. A 2014 study of 3000 people showed that married couples are more likely to divorce the higher the age gap.