Marriage ages vary widely across the globe – with a lot of underlying reasons. An analysis of UN data (for all countries where data for 2013 or newer was available) shows that the oldest grooms in the world can be found in Italy, where men get married at the median age of 35.
The oldest brides live in Ireland (median age of 32.4 years), which is also the country with the smallest age gap between men and women. Grooms were on average one year older than brides in Ireland, reflecting a global trend of male median marriage ages always being higher those of females.
Median marriage ages tend to be higher in more developed countries, which is also where the age gap between men and women getting married was mostly, but not always, smaller. In developing countries, including many in Africa, people got married younger on average, with age gaps being a little wider at times. Malawi had the lowest marriage age of countries analysed, with women getting married at 19.9 years and men at 23.7 years.
Scientific studies have found that smaller age gaps in marriages are correlated with higher socioeconomic status and higher class. In some developing countries, large age gaps show a reality of arranged marriages that are tied to families’ economic well-being through dowry payments as well as reflecting customs that value youth in women and experience in men. The country with the largest age gap in the analysis was Guyana, where the median marriage age was 20 for women and 31.8 for men. The Caribbean state has tried to battle child marriage in the past.