*When a representative for actress Vivica A. Fox revealed this week that Fox recently became engaged to Atlanta club promoter Omar “Slim” White, an age-old controversy was reignited. The reason: Fox is 46 and White is nearly 20 years younger at 27.

Do older woman-younger man relationships work? There is some recent research which suggests they do not.

But whether they work or not, they are increasing. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) carried a report recently saying, “The number of women marrying younger men has soared in 25 years.” And according to the U.S. Census Bureau (most recent figures come from 1996) during the 1970 to 1989 period the number of older women marrying younger men jumped by 10 percent when compared to the 1945 to 1964 period.

However, the bad news is that when an older woman marries a younger man, she may be shortening her life. A study published in the scientific journal Demography found that while older men marrying younger women tend to live longer, women who marry younger men actually lower their life expectancy. The study was conducted by Sven Drefahl of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

What Drefhal found was that when there is a 7-to-9-year gap between the man and the woman, the woman reduced her life expectancy by 20 percent. Conversely, the man’s life expectancy increased by 11 percent. Drefahl theorizes women may die younger due to the stress of their marriages appearing abnormal in society.