The age women get married varies from one part of the world to another, but no matter who you are, how old you are, or where you live, you’ve likely been asked when you plan to get married. Marriage is such a universal construct that some people assume it’s inevitable to get married. While that isn’t the case for everyone, marriage remains hugely important to men and women across the globe, though there tends to be more pressure put on women to tie the knot.
Because of this, many women feel like if they don’t get married by a certain age, they will never get married, which isn’t true, but nevertheless a totally valid feeling. But, the fact of the matter is, the age at which women marry a varies so much. Some women may marry young while others will wait much longer. Still, looking at how old — or young — women get married in different parts of the world is interesting, to say the least. According to the statistics, this is the average age women get married in different parts of the world.
In some African countries, women get married very young
The average age a woman is married in Niger is 17.2 years old while in Mozambique, it’s 18.7, according to data from the United Nations tabulated by Quartz. The reason that average is so low is because child marriage is still very much a thing in many African countries.
Seodi White, Malawi’s coordinator for the Women in Law in Southern Africa Research Trust told The New York Times back in 2005 that even though people want child marriage to end, girls were still being traded like objects. “Society still clings to the education of the boy, and sees the girl as a trading tool,” she said. “In the north, girls as early as 10 are being traded off for the family to gain. After that, the women become owned and powerless in their husbands’ villages.”
While child marriage was outlawed in some African countries like Malawi, Gambia, and Chad, child marriage still occurs in many of those nations and beyond. According to Girls Not Brides, one in five girls around the world is married before they turn 18, the organization reports, and most of those marriages occur in Africa.
Women in the Middle East get married in their early 20s
Throughout the Middle East, you may notice that the marriage age among women is surprisingly low, but there’s a reason for that. In many Middle Eastern nations, child marriage is still legal, and is, in fact, arranged by the parents of the girls in many instances. In Egypt and Iraq, the average age women get married is around 22, according to the United Nations (via Quartz), with many younger women making up that low average.
One Baghdad woman recalled her experience being forced to marry at the age of 13 in an interview with Al-Fanar Media. “I was forced to leave my studies in eighth grade and, after marriage, my life was hard,” she explained. “Before this marriage, I was a good student and made plans with my best friend Shaima to become a dentist. I lost my education.” The woman even said that after she got divorced, her dad forbid her from going back to school, “saying that I brought shame on the family.”
Women in Russia are getting married later than they once had
According to the publication Russia Beyond, “the number of marriages with at least one partner being [younger] than 18 years old was 29,111 in 2002 and only 7,530 in 2016.” Yes, over the decades, couples in Russia have gradually started waiting longer to tie the knot.
What’s more, according to United Nations data tabulated by Quartz, the average age a woman gets married in Russia is 24.4. That’s still pretty young, subjectively, but not as young as many other countries. As Russia Beyond explained, men and women in Russia may still be feeling the pressure from older conservatives to tie the knot, yet not as many singles are rushing into marriage. As the statistics show, not nearly as many women feel compelled to take the plunge in their late teens to early 20s as they did back in 2002.
The average bride in Mexico gets married at this age
In Mexico, child marriage is still a pretty big issue. Though the union was outlawed in 2014, according to National Public Radio (NPR), the ideals surrounding the practice remain. According to the United Nations (via Quartz), the average age women get married in Mexico is 23.2.
As one woman told NPR, many people in Mexico still subscribe to the traditional belief system that a woman’s place is in the home so they should get married early and be wives and mothers. “The idea here is that women aren’t meant to study, but rather raise kids,” Celestina Guzman, a 20-year-old community center member in Oaxaca, Mexico, explained to the publication. “You’ll get married, so there’s no reason to study. Your responsibility is the household.”
Of course, now that child marriage is outlawed, the average age has gone up, but still, one-fifth of Mexican women get married before the age of 18, per NPR.
Women are waiting longer to get married in China
Interestingly, the age at which people marry seems to rise in accordance with a country’s wealth. According to Quartz, “the average marriage age in China rose from just 22 for women and 24 for men in 1990, to 25 and 27 respectively in 2016 — a period when the country experienced rapid economic growth.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every woman in China wants to marry later, but it’s become a trend. “People my age laugh at those who get married early, because only rural people without an education do that,” Dai Xuan, a 30-year-old Chinese woman, said of the increasing marriage age when speaking to National Public Radio. “It’s not that successful women don’t want to marry, it’s that making money makes us pickier.”
Whether or not having more money does indeed make women pickier, there’s no denying the fact that women in China are holding off on marriage — and many seem happy to do so.
Women in Belgium get married in their 30s
Over in Belgium, women are waiting longer to get married than women had in previous generations. According to United Nations data tabulated by Quartz, 26.3 is the average age women say “I do” in Belgium, which is still pretty young, though definitely not as young as some other nations across the globe.
According to Statista, “the number of marriages in Belgium from 2007 to 2018 was rather unstable, yet staying in the lines of 37 to 45 thousand.” However, the site also reported that “Between 2013 and 2018, the number of marriages increased overall, peaking at 45,059 marriages in 2018.” And in 2017, the marriage rate decreased. Basically, marriage in Belgium is kind of an enigma.
While we do know that women there wait longer to get married compared to women in many other parts of the world, per the U.N. data, it’s unclear how that could change in the future. With marriage rates sporadicly increasing and decreasing, we’ll have to wait and see how — or if — the average marital age in the western European country is subject to change.
In the United Kingdom, women take their time before they get married
In the United Kingdom, women are putting off marriage. In fact, the British-based wedding website Bridebook surveyed 4,000 couples who recently got married and found that women in the U.K. were increasingly waiting to get married longer and longer. “The average age of a single woman getting married in 1971 was 22.6 years old, [in 2017] it is 30.8 years old,” the survey found.
The founder of Bridebook, Hamish Shepherd, told Harper’s Bazaar that the fact that women in the U.K. were getting married older was really a good thing. “The divorce rate will likely be on the decline for the foreseeable future as marriage increasingly becomes the fully informed independent choice of couples wishing to demonstrate their commitment to one another without the pressure seen in previous generations,” he explained.
The fact that U.K. women wait until they’re a little older to get married just shows that they know what they want and aren’t willing to compromise on it.
Women in Spain get married older than you might expect
Back in 2015, BBC News reported that Spain had finally raised the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16 years old. Previously, the country “had the lowest marrying age in Europe,” the meida outlet reported. Interestingly enough, even though the legal marriage age in Spain was — and is — quite low, not many people actually got married that young. Per BBC News, “only 365 marriages involving under-16s took place in Spain between 2000 and 2014.”
Interestingly, the average marriage age for women in Spain is actually pretty high. According to research from the United Nations tabulated by Quartz, women in the southwestern European country get married, on average, at the age of 27.7, which is far higher than many other countries where the legal marriage age is still so low.
While we can’t say for sure, it could simply be that women in Spain, like other nations, don’t want to rush into such a big decision and are thus choosing to take their time.
In Japan, women get married just before turning 30
For a while in Japan, women felt massive pressure to get married. In fact, according to The New York Times, if a Japanese woman wasn’t married before she turned 25, she would be labeled “Christmas cake,” meaning a dessert past its sell-by date. However, the United Nations data tabulated by Quartz in 2020 shows that times have changed. The average age women get married in Japan is not 25 or younger, it’s 29.2.
These days, women in Japan just don’t feel the same need to get married young as women from past generations had. As one 49-year-old woman in Japan told The New York Times, “One reason to get married for a woman is to have a stable financial life,” However, because many women in Japan have successful careers, they no longer need to marry for those reasons.
“I don’t have any worries about being alone with myself or any financial worries,” the woman explained. “So I did not have to chase myself into a corner and choose marriage for financial reasons.” Japanese women are making themselves and their careers a priority — and not letting marriage get in the way.
Dutch women get married relatively later in life
Though it definitely isn’t the 1950s anymore, there are still pervasive, traditional schools of thought that surround women and marriage. Some people may still think that a woman should be married before she has children or that she needs a spouse to be complete, but, in the Netherlands, marriage really isn’t even a big deal, especially for women. In fact, according to research from the United Nations (via Quartz), the average age a Dutch woman gets married is 32.4.
As Slate reported, “the Dutch attitude” about marriage is pretty laid-back. Women don’t feel the societal pressure to tie the knot, even if they want kids or have kids already. More than one Dutch woman told Slate that even though they were in their 40s, had kids, and had several previous romantic relationships, marriage “just wasn’t something that mattered” much.
That isn’t to say that people in the Netherlands never get married or that Dutch women don’t desire to get married, but it definitely isn’t something they feel the need to jump into.
Women in Italy get married in their 30s and outlive their spouses
Italy may be a romantic destination, but it turns out that women in Italy are not only getting married later, but they may actually be better off without a spouse at all. According to data from the United Nations (via Quartz), women in Italy get married, on average, at age 32.2. Women in the southern European country also tend to outlive their husbands and, interestingly enough, live better lives after their husbands pass on.
According to an Italian study published in 2016, “marital status seems to significantly influence the onset of frailty, with some gender-specific differences.” As Quartz summarized, “Italian widows over 65 do pretty well — better than widowers their age, and also better than married women their age.”
This may be due to a number of reasons, according to the publication, including the fact that the country has pretty stereotypical gender roles and women are often expected to stay home and take care of their husbands and their social lives. So, when their husbands die, they had, in effect, less to worry about. It sounds bleak, but clearly, women in Italy are doing something right by getting married later and living longer.
Women in France marry at this surprising age
In France, many women don’t seem to be in any kind of a rush to get married. In the western European country, the average age a woman gets married is 32, United Nations data (via Quartz) revealed. The numbers don’t lie: French women are postponing their weddings longer than women in other countries.
According to a Eurostat study, 43 percent of babies born in France were born to a couple that wasn’t married, which is the highest rate in the European Union. However, this isn’t unique to just France. As researcher Marieke de Mooij explained in the book Consumer Behavior and Culture: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising explained, “Living alone and cohabitation, even if a couple [has] children, has become more popular in Northern European countries.”
Still, it may just be true that French women know what they want, and even if that means a baby, they aren’t going to get married just for that reason.
In Brazil, women and girls get married very young
According to data from the United Nations (via Quartz), women in Brazil get married at an average age of 23.9, which is pretty young compared with the rest of the world. Sadly, this low average is likely due to the fact that child marriage remains prevalent in the South American country. “Child marriage in Brazil is very normalized and accepted,” researcher Alice Taylor told Reuters.
Citing 2010 government census data, Reuters reported that “Brazil is ranked fourth in the world in the number of girls married to or living with a partner by the age of 15.” In Brazil, the sad truth of child marriage is that it is oftentimes perceived as the only way out of an abusive home situation for young girls.
Although the legal age of marriage in Brazil is 16, if there is a pregnancy, girls can get married even younger than that. While many women across the world are finding freedom in getting married later, women and girls in Brazil don’t really have that option.
Women in the United States get married later than ever before
For Americans, especially American women, marriage is becoming less and less important. Well, for the most part. Marriage may still be something women strive for in the United States, but millennials are getting married later than previous generations, according to The New York Times. The average age a woman gets married in America is 27.5, per data from the United Nations tabulated by Quartz. While that’s not exactly “old,” it is older than it used to be.
Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, told The New York Times that millennials are taking marriage more seriously than couples of the past. “The capstone is the last brick you put in place to build an arch,” he explained of how many couples in America view marriage. “Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood. Now it is often the last. For many couples, marriage is something you do when you have the whole rest of your personal life in order. Then you bring family and friends together to celebrate.”
As marriages have changed over the last 100 years, marital age may soon be one more thing women in the states don’t have to pay much mind to at all.
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