Pity the poor cougar. In a short amount of time, cougars–older women who couple up with younger men–have gone from being celebrated to being castigated. TV shows like Cougar Town, movies like Sex and the City, and glamorous younger-man-dating celebrities like Demi Moore and Madonna have made “cougarism” an aspirational lifestyle. Now for the backlash.
Yesterday, a German research company, Max Planck Institute, published a study saying that women who marry men either older or younger than themselves die earlier than those who marry men their own age (within one to two years). Yet the press has almost uniformly spun the study as a cautionary tale to cougars, blaring headlines like “Sorry Cougars: Boy Toys Hazardous to Your Health” (New York Post); “Cougars Die Young” (Fox News); and the straightforward “Women Who Marry Younger Men Die Earlier” (UPI). These warnings–as joy-killing as the ones on cigarette boxes–are usually accompanied by a picture of Demi Moore and her 15-years-younger hubby Ashton Kutcher.
While men who marry a woman seven to nine years younger see their mortality risk drop by 11%, women who marry a man seven to nine years younger increase their mortality risk by 20%, according to the study of nearly two million Danish couples conducted by researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and published in the journal Demography.