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New ONS statistics: Two out of three UK families are based on married couples

Date: November 2, 2012

The publication of the statistical bulletin Families and Households, 2012 by the Office for National Statistics is welcome.  Now, for the first time, a series of figures from 1996 to 2012 is available for study and comment. The key finding of this updated national survey is: “In 2012 there were 18.2 million families in the UK. Of these 12.2 million consisted of a married couple with or without children.”
The Marriage Foundation commented: “These figures describe the changing landscape of British families, which includes growth in the number of cohabiting and single parent families. But the headline figure remains that two out of three families in the UK are based around married couples. Moreover, the figures also show that four out of every five UK couples with children are married. For all the current, understandable, concern about relationship breakdown and its tragic consequences, we shouldn’t allow false perceptions to obscure the truth that marriage is the choice and desire of most people.”

The figures show that the most common family type remains a married couple. Out of the 18.2 million families in the UK, 12.2 million are married couples.The number of cohabiting couples has nearly doubled (from 1.5 million in 1996 to 2.9 million in 2012). There are 7.6 million people who live alone. The number  of  middle-aged people (those aged 45-65) living alone has risen by 53% to 2.4 million.

These figures follow yesterday’s confirmation by the Social Justice Cabinet Committee that the numbers of children experiencing the separation of their birth parents is already 45%.

Living alone and experiencing separation risks negative outcomes for both adults and children. The consequences of loneliness to health and wellbeing are high- studies have correlated it in the past with risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer and suicide. And with 500,000 adults and children being drawn into the family justice system every year our task of increasing the stability of couple relationships and promoting stronger, healthier marriages remains vital.
The ONS report on cohabitation published today is available here (  and their new report on households and families is here (

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