Love may be blind, but a big difference in ages in the partners may be a ticket to divorce. Even before the walk down the aisle, the marriage may be on shaky ground depending on the age gap between partners. Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, professors in the Department of Economics at Emory University in Atlanta, say that based on a study of 3,000 people, the age difference can be a considerable factor. Randal Olson, a fourth-year computer science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University, crunched the raw data from Emory and found that a larger age gap is related to a higher divorce rate.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the larger the age gap between spouses, the more likely the marriage will end in divorce. One to five years’ difference is nothing to worry about, but if one spouse is old enough to be the partner’s parent, then the marriage might be headed for a crash, says Olson.
According to Olson, a five-year age gap statistically means the couple is 18 percent more likely to divorce compared to just 3% with a one-year age difference. That rate rises to 39% for a 10-year age difference and skyrockets to 95 percent for a 20-year age gap.
Sexual appetites become more of a factor when the age spread increases. “Sex drive goes up for women in middle age, but sexual function decreases for men,” says Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills psychotherapist and panelist on “Sex Box,” a forthcoming We TV relationship therapy show. Moreover, partners from different generations may have different cultural reference points and values, and polar opposite tastes in music and film, and even friends.
Of course, the Emory University study provides possible indicators of divorce rather than actual reasons. Correlation does not necessarily means causation. “It could just be that the types of couples with those characteristics are the types of couples who are, on average, more likely to divorce for other reasons,” says Mialon.