Are Couples With Age Gaps Actually Healthier?

The old saying, "age is just a number," rings true for many. If you look around your family and friends circle, you're likely to know a couple or two who carry an eight-to-10-year age gap.

In heterosexual couples, it was more typical for the man to be years older than the woman, though now there are many older women happily settling down with younger men. In fact, according to Today, a survey reveals that not only would 81% of women polled date younger men but 90% of younger men would date women 10 years older than them. Just look at Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, who have a 10-year age gap.

Many same-sex couples also enjoy relationships with large age gaps. In fact, quite a few of the same-sex celebrity couples with the biggest age differences have long-term relationships, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, who are 15 years apart; Matt Bomer and Simon Halls, who are 14 years apart; and Elton John and David Furnish, who are 16 years apart.

Age gaps may lead to relationship dissatisfaction

The prevalence of couples with age gaps may lead you to think that they're healthier than couples close in age, but that isn't necessarily so. According to the Journal of Popular Economics, a study that measured differently aged heterosexual couples had some interesting findings. The most ideal age gap, according to research, was when the man was older by one to three years. When that gap reached four to six years, there was less satisfaction in the relationship, and the numbers worsened as the age gap increased past seven years.

In addition, a study from Korea found that couples with larger age gaps of more than three years had more instances of depression, per MindPath Health. Similarly, couples that were the same age had the fewest incidences of depression. While age isn't the sole factor in the demise of any relationship, it can contribute to factors that make a relationship difficult. These include a power imbalance within the relationship, as well as questioning from friends and family outside the relationship. "With relationships, there will always be people on the outside looking in. Maybe even more so when outsiders visually see the age difference," licensed professional counselor Brandy Porche told MindPath Health.

What is most important in a relationship goes beyond age

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger partner tends to be more unhappy and dissatisfied than the older partner regardless of gender, according to the Journal of Popular Economics. What others think about your relationship may also play a role.

"Any couple that faces scrutiny and discrimination needs to work that much harder to form a strong relationship that helps them cope," says Dr. Mike McNulty, who is a master trainer for The Gottman Institute as well as the founder of The Chicago Relationship Center (via Good Housekeeping). "Proactively working on the relationship and seeking out couples therapy and workshops helps achieve that goal."

A healthy relationship takes compatibility, emotional maturity, and compromise, which may be more important than someone's age. "My guess is that most age gap relationship couples break up not because of the age gap itself, but because of other issues," Dr. Helen Fisher told Good Housekeeping. The author of "Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray" sums it up well: "After all, once you really love someone, their age begins to disappear."