While anyone could get caught up in the thorny throes of an affair, studies show that men are more likely to commit infidelity than women. An extensive study published in AARP magazine found that 46 percent of men reported cheating on their partners in the past, compared to 21 percent of women. Another report from the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) found that in marriages specifically about twice as many men cheat. But the IFS data also shows that age plays a role in who is cheating, how much, and when. Among those under 30, the number of married men and women who cheat is about the same (10 percent versus 11 percent). However, as we age, the gap between how many men and how many women cheat grows. Sure, you might be thinking men in mid-life are most likely to stray, but it's actually a bit older than that. The infidelity rate among men in their 70s is the highest. Read on to learn more, and if you're worried about your spouse, check out The Biggest Tell-Tale Sign Your Partner Is Cheating, Experts Say.
Using data from their 2017 General Social Survey, the IFS found that 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women say they've had sex with someone other than their spouse. But later, among those aged 50 to 69, about 24 percent of men cheat, compared to 16 percent of women. After that, during ages 70 to 79, 13 percent of women cheat, while 26 percent of men cheat. Interestingly enough, the number remains relatively high for men in their later years, too: 24 percent of men 80 years or older report cheating while only 6 percent of women say the same. Based on the data, women report the highest rate of infidelity in their 60s, but the rate goes sharply down in their 70s and 80s.
Historic data suggests that men have always been more likely to cheat. But in the 1990s, the infidelity rate peaked among men in their 50s. In that decade, older men were less likely to cheat than those who were middle aged. Then, in the 2000s, the highest rate of infidelity shifted to men in their 60s. Now, it seems, it's climbed once again.
"A generation or cohort effect is likely to contribute to this shifting gender gap in infidelity. … Americans born in the 1940s and 1950s reported the highest rates of extramarital sex, perhaps because they were the first generations to come of age during the sexual revolution," writes Wendy Wang, PhD, director of research at the IFS. "The higher infidelity rates among these two cohorts contribute to the changing pattern in the gender gap as they grow older over time." And for more on affairs, here are 30 Things People Say If They Want to Cheat.