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Women’s age at first marriage varies widely in the UNECE region

In recent decades, family patterns have changed substantially in the UNECE region. Longer cohabitation before marriage and childbearing after personal establishment in the labour market has become more common for both men and women. As an example, the mean age at first marriage for both men and women increased by more than two years in the majority of countries in the region between 2000 and 2014. In most countries of the region, women’s mean age at first marriage is higher than the mean age at first birth.

While the upward trend in the mean age at first marriage is relatively consistent in the region, the timing of the first marriage still varies widely among countries. The chart below shows the distribution of first marriages for women by age group in 40 countries in the UNECE region with available data in 2014. In most countries the majority of women marrying for the first time were in their twenties or younger. However, Spain (65 per cent), Ireland (63 per cent), Sweden (56 per cent), Italy (55 per cent) and Greece (51 per cent) reported that the majority of women celebrating their first marriage were more than 30 years old.

In Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Albania, over 20 per cent of women marrying for the first time in 2014 were in their teens. In contrast, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Italy each reported that more than nine per cent of women marrying for the first time were over the age of 40.

Differences between men and women in the timing of first marriages also persist. Very few grooms in 2014 were in their teenage years. Conversely, the proportion of grooms marrying for the first time who were over 40 years old was higher than that of brides in all countries, and represented 15 per cent or more in Sweden, Norway and Italy.