What’s the Best Age to Get Married? A New Study Has an Answer!

posted: 07/22/15
by: Mara Betsch
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When's the best age to get married? When Mr. or Ms. Right walks into your life, duh! Well, according to a recent analysis, not so much.

Nicholas H. Wolfinger, an adjunct associate professor in the sociology department at the University of Utah, analyzed data collected between 2006 and 2010 from the National Survey of Family Growth and found an interesting pattern. Past analyses showed that the longer you waited to get married, the lower your risk of divorce. This makes logical sense, of course. (I mean, do you remember your high school boyfriend or girlfriend?) Getting married in your late teens and early twenties -- when you're still insecure, less educated and less financially stable -- increases your risk of separating. In fact, research shows that someone who marries at 25 is over 50 percent less likely to get divorced than is someone who weds at age 20.

And while getting married young still holds the greatest risk of divorce, according to Wolfinger's analysis, waiting too long to tie the knot comes with its own set of problems.

"What was true for decades no longer seems to be the case," writes Wolfinger in his article "Want to Avoid Divorce? Wait to Get Married But Not Too Long.

"My data analysis shows that prior to age 32 or so, each additional year of age at marriage reduces the odds of divorce by 11 percent," Wolfinger writes. "However, after that, the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent per year."

The pattern held even when controlling for social and demographic factors like education, race, religion, size of the cities where the survey respondents lived, and the number of sexual partners a respondent had. See the results below:

So what gives? Wolfinger has a few theories, actually, even though the jury's still out on the actual reasons for the trend. His main argument postulates that those who wait until later to get married may do so because they aren't really marriage material. They may have trouble with interpersonal relationships, exes who sabotage their relationships, etc. A smaller dating pool could also be the issue.

But don't panic if you're in your late 30s and single -- there are plenty of happily married people who say "I do" later in life!