According to the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), the risk of early divorce has dropped to its lowest since liberal divorce laws were first introduced in the 1970s. Married couples still face the highest risk of divorce within the first 10 years of their union, but the early divorce rate has dropped by 20% over the past 15 years with an overall increase in marriage stability over the past decade. ONS analysts believe several factors are responsible for the decline in early divorce.
One of the major reasons more relationships are surviving early marriage is that more couples are living together before tying the knot. Analysts say that cohabitation plays a significant role in the longevity and success of a marriage. Particularly, researchers have found that pre-marital cohabitation increases the commitment level of men in relationships. An ONS report iterates that “cohabitation is often a precursor to marriage and may act to filter out weaker relationships from progressing to marriage.”
Additionally, the new divorce statistics show that women today are less likely to initiate divorce than the previous generation; conversely, the rate of divorce initiated by men has remained almost constant since 1980.
“Almost all of the change in UK divorce rates since the 1960s is due to what happens in the first five to ten years of marriage,” states Harry Benson, director of Communications for the UK-based Marriage Foundation. “Divorce rates have peaked around years three to six for every year of marriage since the 1960s. The seven-year itch is, and always has been, a Hollywood myth.” The Marriage Foundation’s stated aim is to “champion long-lasting, stable relationships within marriage.”
Another factor contributing to the decrease of early divorce rates is a reduced pressure for young couples to marry. Couples who marry without familial pressure to do so are more truly committed and therefore likely to stay together. The ONS also notes that many couples are getting married later in life, which may play a role in the stability of their marriage.
Statistically, couples who were married in 2005 are 20% less likely to divorce by 2012 than couples who wed in 1991-the year when divorce rates reached an all-time high. According to the ONS:
- Divorces were most likely to occur between the fourth and eighth wedding anniversary.
- The number of divorces in 2012 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44.
- For those married in 1972, 22% of marriages had ended in divorce by their 15th wedding anniversary whereas for those married in 1997, almost a third of marriages had ended by this time.
To view an infographic about divorce in the UK, go to:www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/divorces-in-england-and-wales/2012/info-divorces.html