Here's How Men Think about Women Differently After 40

New science says they get increasingly pickier.

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Most studies that cover online dating suggest that women are much more selective in picking partners than men, a fact attributed to evolutionary science. But a new study published in Psychological Science claims that how picky the sexes are as they get older isn't as clear-cut as it may seem.

In the largest ever behavioral economic analysis of Australian online dating, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology analyzed 41,936 members of the online dating website RSVP during a four-month period in 2016 and made a surprising discovery.

"We found that women are more specific than men in their preference up until the age of 40, then males become pickier than females from 40 years-old onwards," lead author Stephen Whyte said in a university newsletter.

Studying an age group that ranged from 18 to 80, the researchers found that, in keeping with previous studies, women are more likely to seek a mate that has a level of education equal or higher to them while at peak fertility. Past the age of 40, however, men apparently become more picky about the education levels of a potential partner than women.

"Evolution favors women who are highly selective about their mates and in many cultures, women have been shown to use education as an indicator of quality because it is often associated with social status and intelligence—both attributes that are highly sought after," Whyte said. "Previous online dating research has demonstrated similar or higher women's preference for education level in a mate but as our data encompasses a range of ages between 18 and 80, we are able to comprehensively show how those preferences change across the reproductive life cycle."

The findings corroborate with recent research that indicates that the qualities that women make men attractive to women depend on their reproductive goals. For example, one recent study found that women are more likely to choose a square-jawed, testosterone-heavy man for a short-term sexual fling, but prefer men with "feminine" features that indicate trustworthiness as life partners. Other research has pointed to the fact that women like men who are their age or older, whereas men prefer 23-year-olds regardless of their own age, which is probably why a man's likelihood of cheating increases with age.

None of this sounds particularly great to women who are worried they are going to eventually "age out" of sex, but there's good news. Recent studies have shown that there a plenty of senior women enjoying great sex lives, and there are loads of female celebrities over the age of 65 who prove that age is just a number.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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