Recent research from Canada has found that the happiest marriages tend to be found amongst couples who married at the same time or later than the majority of their peers, rather than amongst couples who married early. 

The study, by researchers at the University of Alberta, set out to discover “the optimal age for marriage relative to one’s peers of the same generation”, rather than trying to establish whether there was an optimal age for marriage across all the generations.

“People who do things on time get social approval—families approve, friends approve—so making this transition when everyone else is would seem more normative and easier,” explained family ecology researcher Matt Johnson. “Those who transition early or late may receive subtle or overt social sanctions.”

“We didn’t find that marrying late was negative in terms of future subjective well-being. In fact, marrying late was better compared to marrying early,” he added. “People who marry early tend not to get as much education, have kids earlier than is optimal, and as a result get locked into careers they hadn’t aspired to. In mid-life they’re a little more depressed—or have a lower sense of self-worth—not because they violated some societal norm, but because they started down the path to family life early.”

However, although taking your time to get married brings the advantages of maturity and self-knowledge, it isn’t without risks say researchers.

“The marriage market, as they say, gets thinner as you get older … so it’s a balancing act between not jumping the gun too soon, but at the same time not waiting too long, when you may end up settling for a person that isn’t the best match for you,” warned Matt Johnson.

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