UK has the fastest fall in divorce rates across Europe

  • New research by Marriage Foundation shows divorce rates in the first 15 years of marriage are falling across Europe – and the UK is leading the way, with the biggest fall in divorce rates over the last 25 years.
  • During the earliest five years of marriage, divorce rates have now fallen in 15 of the 20 countries surveyed.
  • The analysis uses data from Eurostat to build a far more accurate assessment of divorce rates than has previously been available.

A new report released by Marriage Foundation, using data from Eurostat, shows that divorce rates in Europe are continuing to fall – with the UK leading the way. UK couples marrying in 1992 had an actual divorce rate of 30.7% during the first 15 years of their marriage – the 3rd highest rate out of the 20 countries surveyed. A decade later, for UK couples marrying in 2002, this rate had fallen to 28.1%. For UK couples who married in 2017, the projected divorce rate is 22.5%.

Interestingly, divorce rates are overall higher in Scandinavia and Northern Europe (with Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Belgium and Denmark heading up the table) whereas Catholic countries generally have the lowest divorce rates (with the exception of Spain). Slovakia, Poland, Italy and Romania show the lowest divorce rates, with Romania showing a projected divorce rate of just 14% for couples marrying in 2017 – Sweden has the highest projected divorce rate of 36%.

Harry Benson, Research Director for Marriage Foundation, commented:

Our analysis provides the most accurate picture of European divorce rates ever seen. We have long claimed that lower divorce rates in the UK are due to the relaxation of social pressure to marry. The result is that those who do marry are more committed and hence more likely to stay together. We are just beginning to see this trend ripple across Europe in the earliest years of marriage. But over the first fifteen years of marriage, Britain clearly leads Europe.’  

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of Marriage Foundation and former high court judge, added:

To be in gold medal position in the European race to reduce divorce rates is an accolade for which we can, as a nation, justifiably be proud. It is consistent with all the recent statistical data showing that marriages are being undertaken nowadays with a degree of serious commitment not seen for decades. By comparison with their parents, couples are marrying later, more thoughtfully and thus more enduringly. Hopefully they are also taking notice of the constant stream of data showing the qualitative advantages to married relationships.  Now the challenge is to persuade those who do not marry that their informal cohabiting relationships are inherently far less stable or beneficial, which is not at all good for them and disastrous for their children.’


Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

Media Links

Daily Mail

Britain has fastest falling divorce rate in Europe as experts point to the ‘relaxation’ of social pressure to marry


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