The bigger the age difference when couples wed, the bigger the letdown afterwards, study finds

Research shows both sexes are initially more satisfied with younger spouses but that this doesn’t last, and that large age differentials cause bigger problems over time

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 5:00pm

It’s not uncommon to see married couples with a significant age gap. But new research suggests that early in the marriage men and women both report greater marital satisfaction with younger spouses – but that satisfaction fades over time.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder examined 13 years’ worth of data from thousands of Australian households.

“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,” says Terra McKinnish, a professor of economics at the university and a co-author of the study. “Women actually are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands.”

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She added that looking at marriages over time, people who are married to much older or younger spouses tend to have larger declines in marital satisfaction compared to those who are married to spouses who are similar in age. Couples with a large age gap usually see a decline in satisfaction after six to 10 years of marriage.

When financial troubles are added to the age-gap equation, things can go south pretty fast.

“When couples have a large age difference, then 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,” says McKinnish.

A possible explanation for this is that couples of a similar age are more in sync on decisions that affect them both, such as having children or their spending habits, she says. This would better equip them to adjust to a negative financial shock such as a job loss. Such a sudden shake-up could expose underlying tensions and mismatches in couples with a larger age gap.

The report was recently published online in the Journal of Population Economics. Its findings are based on data from the “Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey” that began in 2001 with an initial sample of 7,682 households with 19,914 individuals. Participants are resurveyed every year with questions that measure life satisfaction.

Millennials more likely to reach for the sunscreen – but not always for their health

Millennials sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to making important life decisions, but they seem to be getting the message about sun safety.

New figures show that people aged between 18 and 34 in the Asia-Pacific region have a greater concern for sun damage and the effect it could have on their skin compared to older generations. The figures from research firm GlobalData found that 81 per cent of millennials who lived in the Asia-Pacific region were worried about sun damage, compared with 74 per cent of people over the age of 35 in the same region.

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GlobalData analyst Matthew Perry says while young people are health conscious, they are more worried about the long-term effect that ultraviolet (UV) rays have on their skin’s appearance.

“While the negative health impacts of sun damage are well understood in Asia-Pacific, another key driver for skincare solutions has been the growing acceptance of sun exposure as an accelerator to the ageing process and cause of appearance-related damage,” says Perry.

GlobalData’s “Innovation Trends and Opportunities in Suncare” report found that as a result of their concern, millennials were more likely to buy sun-protection products than older age groups. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of millennials surveyed said that they were actively buying or considering buying sun-protection products, compared to 56 per cent of the over 35 demographic.

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The cosmetics market has jumped on this trend, with many brands offering products with SPF levels to ensure easy and effective application of make-up with sun protection.

“Sun protection now serves a cosmetic function, becoming an integral part of daily beauty regimens, especially among younger consumers who are now increasingly appearance-conscious due to social media,” says Perry. Alkira Reinfrank

World’s blind set to soar as people live longer

The number of blind people in the world will increase threefold from about 36 million today to 115 million in 2050 as populations expand and individuals grow ever older, researchers have found.

The number of people with a moderate to severe vision impairment – those not corrected by glasses, contact lenses or an operation – will nearly triple, from about 217 million to 588 million over the same period.

Most of those affected live in Africa and Asia, the researchers wrote in The Lancet Global Health journal.

In Hong Kong, 174,800 people, or 2.4 per cent of the population, have “seeing difficulties”, according to a 2013 Census and Statistics Department report. About 7,800 people are blind.

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Looking at data from 188 countries, the researchers concluded that the prevalence of blindness – the number of blind per population group – dropped from 0.75 per cent in 1990 to 0.48 per cent in 2015.

The rate of moderate to severe visual impairment declined from 3.83 per cent to 2.9 per cent over the same time.

“This is almost certainly because of improved health interventions,” such as cataract surgery, study says co-author Rupert Bourne of the UK’s Anglia Ruskin University.

But as most visual problems occur in older people, the rough numbers will keep rising in step with population growth and ageing. The new forecast is based on UN population projections, even assuming that the prevalence continues to decline, says Bourne.

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The research did not consider the impact of possible improvements in diagnosis, treatment and access to health care, as “nobody can accurately estimate” what those will be, he adds.

Someone with moderate visual impairment is considered to be unable to legally drive, and would not recognise another person from across the street.

“With the number of people with vision impairment accelerating, we must take action to increase our current treatment efforts at global, regional and country levels,” says Bourne.

“Investing in these treatments has previously reaped considerable benefits, including improved quality of life, and economic benefits as people remain in work.”

Agence France-Presse