Money may not buy you happiness. But it does generally increase your odds of happily ever after.
Married or not, the rich are generally more likely to stay together than the poor. And it’s a sliding scale. The richer you are the more likely you are to make your relationship last. Being married and rich tends to produce the best results of all.
Intuitively this is obvious. It’s clearly harder to make a relationship last if you live on benefits in a small council flat than if you have a good job and live in a large detached house in a leafy area.
By definition most celebrities are famous precisely because they do something that people are willing to pay money to see, whether they are movie stars, footballers or rockstars. So celebrities are generally right at the top of the income scale and, amongst those who marry, ought therefore to have the most stable relationships of all. But they don’t.
I have a database of 484 celebrity couples who married between 2001 and 2010. Their names were taken from glossy magazines such as Hello! and OK! and I have tracked their marriages and divorces mostly via Wikipedia and occasionally wider google searches.
As the charts and table in my report illustrate, celebrities divorce at roughly twice the rate of us mortals, with 53% of marriages ending in divorce within 18 years compared to 32% of UK marriages that began in 2001. UK marriages that began in 2010 have an even lower divorce rate of 29%, though clearly this is an estimate this is an estimate based on present trends after the first ten years or so.
Despite their wealth, money doesn’t seem to protect the marriages of celebrities.
The problem is fame. In this analysis, I’ve divided celebrities into categories of music, screen, and sports/other. At 60%, music stars have the highest divorce rate over 18 years, followed by screen stars at 53%. Sports and other stars have the lowest divorce rate at 42%, yet this is still higher than the UK average at 32%.
All of this suggests a narrative. Fame in itself appears to put a special pressure on relationships, however it is the combination of ego and opportunity that seem especially challenging for those who are married. It is easy to imagine a celebrity world where all around you fawn over you and tell you how great you are. It is also imagine a celebrity world filled with attractive alternatives who provide temptation and opportunity.
While this combination may not be quite so toxic for sportsmen and women whose daily routines tend to involve tremendous self-discipline and little to no alcohol, ego and opportunity are clearly sufficient to raise divorce risk above average levels.
For screen stars it is also easy to imagine how inappropriate close relationships can become established with other fellow actors because of the intimacy and suspension of normal daily life required to pretend to be somebody else during a film or theatre season.
But it is rock stars who face the highest risk to their marriages, with adrenaline-fuelled nightly performances on tour in front of huge crowds followed by after parties, alcohol and opportunity.