Rarely a week goes by without new reports providing us with data, trends and, perhaps most surprisingly, statistical formula, relating to relationships.  Here is a tongue-in-cheek look at three examples of statistics and formula being applied to relationships.

A formula to calculate the ideal age to propose

A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, have created a formula to define the ideal age at which a person should propose marriage.

The formula can be tailored to anyone, and is based on defining a point in time between the age a person wants to start looking for a potential spouse and the latest age they would like to get married.  The formula works as follows:

  • Choose the oldest age at which you want to get married, for example, 39. Call this ‘n’.
  • Decide the earliest age at which you’ll start to consider a potential spouse, for example, 20. This age becomes ‘p’.
  • Subtract ‘p’ from ‘n’ (39 – 20), then multiply the result by 0.368. This equals 6.992.
  • Add this to your minimum age
  • Result: 27 is your optimal proposal age.

The team of researchers claim that they have been correct almost 40% of the time.  Meaning, we assume, that they have been incorrect over 60% of the time.

How to predict celebrity divorces

Several years ago, New York Times science reporter John Tierney and statistician Garth Sundem announced a formula that could predict which celebrity marriages would last the distance and which would end in divorce.  They have recently updated their formula to, apparently, make it more robust.  The first version of their formula was based on the amount of press coverage the celebrity couple received – put simply, the more coverage, the more likely their relationship would not last.

However, after some inaccurate predictions (e.g. they incorrectly predicted Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes would divorce), they have developed their formula to take into account the type of coverage the celebrity couple receive. Now, the formula uses an average between tabloid coverage and New York Times coverage.  Meaning that if the proportion of coverage swings towards tabloid rather than broadsheet, the marriage is less likely to last.  The formula also particularly takes into account aspects of the celebrity wife’s coverage as it seems that her amount and type of coverage has the greater influence on the relationship.  In other words, a celebrity wife with higher tabloid coverage than her husband could spell disaster for the relationship.

Marriage rates – are they up, or down?

Back in November 2011, news reports announced that marriages were now at an all time low.  The suggestion being that people were now preferring to cohabit rather than formally tie the knot.  The reasoning was that it is now more socially acceptable to cohabit than it ever has been, and also that the economic climate has made it more difficult for people to get married and afford large purchases such as houses and cars.

However, in March 2012, just five months after it was announced that marriages were on the wane, we are told in the news that the number of marriages has increased at the fastest rate for a decade.  Now, the reasoning is that people are getting married later in life, and in particular, people in their late thirties and early forties are boosting the marriage figures.  Apparently the average age of marriage has increased by almost a 10 years in the last four decades (to an average of 36.2 years for men and 33.6 years for women).

Perhaps, to some extent, the reports in November and March are both correct – people are cohabiting more, but they are also still getting married, just at a later age.

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