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SALT LAKE CITY — What's the best age to get married if you want to avoid a divorce?
A new study from the University of Utah is knocking down the longstanding social science theory that the longer you wait to get married, the less likely you are to get a divorce.
U. professor Nicolas Wolfinger analyzed data collected from 2006 to 2010 and found that those who got married in their late 20s were less likely to get divorced than those who waited until their 30s.
"So up to early 30s, you're less likely to get divorced, but if you wait past early 30s, you're more likely to become divorced," he told KSL. "As Jordan Weissman from Slate just called it, the Goldilocks Theory of Marriage: not too old, not too young, but right in the middle."
The findings were a big change for Wolfinger, who first reported the results in a blog post for the Institute for Family Studies.
"It was a considerable surprise," Wolfinger told KSL. "No one had ever showed that before. It appears to be something that's developed over the last 20 years."
Although the study identifies a new trend, it's unclear why the divorce rate starts to pick up again at age 32, but he offered some theories.
"The kinds of people who wait till their thirties to get married may be the kinds of people who aren't predisposed toward doing well in their marriages," Wolfinger wrote. "Consequently they delay marriage, often because they can't find anyone willing to marry them."
According to recent statistics, the median age for getting married in the U.S. is 29 for men and 27 for women. In Utah, the median ages are the lowest in the country, at 26 for men and 24 for women.
Regular church attendance makes you less likely to have a divorce, so Utah has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. But this (new divorce rate) remains the same whether you go to church or not.
–U. Professor Nicolas Wolfinger
None of the usual factors including race, religion and education level had any impact on the findings in the U. study, Wolfinger said.
"Regular church attendance makes you less likely to have a divorce, so Utah has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country," he told KSL. "But this (new divorce rate) remains the same whether you go to church or not.
However, Wolfinger says no matter the age, people's divorce risk is lowered if they have a higher education and do things that have shown to lower divorce rates, like attend church regularly.
This new study supports a previous study from 2014 that found a skyrocketing divorce rate among people age 40 or older and a dramatically lower rate for people in their teens and early twenties.
That study suggested that many of the older divorces are from second or third marriages, which are more likely to be unstable and end in divorce.