Online Dating: Women Want Younger Men

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Evidence shows more ladies are embracing their inner cougar.

When it comes to dating, there’s an unscientific, but prevailing opinion that older men want younger women and vice versa. Turns out, the opposite may be true for women on the online dating scene. Numbers culled from various dating sites have consistently shown both sexes prefer to date down the age spectrum rather than up.

AYI (Are You Interested?), is one of the largest websites and apps designed to help users find their mates, but it works in an unconventional way.  Users allow the app to access their Facebook profile, and people are then are paired based on interests. To sweeten the appeal, AYI also flags any mutual friends the prospective pair share. Users who like what they see  “fave” the profile. If not, they can click “skip.”

(MORE: Does Online Dating Make It Harder to Find ‘the One’?)

AYI pulled data from its 68 million downloads and 20 million Facebook profiles to see which subscribers are making successful matches. It focused in on the 1 million recommended pairings in a specific population of 35,942 users ages 30 to 49. The surprising finding: a woman was  five times more likely to show interest in a man was five years her junior that one who was five years older. If only the men would catch on. Among the 26,434 men ages 30 to 49, 42% wouldn’t even consider a woman if she was older than him. However, if contacted by an older woman, men wouldn’t necessarily turn her down. The data shows that a man is only 22% less likely to respond to an older woman than a younger woman if she initiates contact.

(MORE: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Tweet the Ways)

What are some of the reasons for this? AYI analysts suspect that younger women are inundated by requests from older men and while that might once have had some appeal—in a marrying-for-wealth sort of way— it simply doesn’t anymore. A 2008 study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly foind that women who are 10 or more years older than their partner report more satisfaction and relationship commitment compared to women who are the same age or younger than their partner.

“We don’t know for sure, but it may be because when the woman is older, it shifts the traditional heterosexual power dynamic toward greater equality. We know from a lot of research that greater equality tends to make couples happier,” writes study author Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University in his blog, the Psychology of Human Sexuality.

Based on the findings, AYI Director of Product Insights, Josh Fischer, says men will get more online dating responses if they don’t confine themselves to only connecting with younger women, and women should continue to initiate contact with men they think they will like–especially if they’re younger.

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