Startling new MF research on UK divorce rate

A new report by The Marriage Foundation think-tank has shattered the common assumption that the divorce rate for all couples is higher than it was in the 1960s.

Looking at the rate of divorce over the last four decades, Harry Benson, Communications Director at The Marriage Foundation, found that the divorce rate for couples after they have been married for ten years or more was the same as it was in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.

A couple who married in 2001 have the same chance of getting divorced after ten or more years of marriage as a couple who married in 1971, a consistency Mr Benson describes as “remarkable”.

One in five newlyweds divorce after ten years of marriage, with the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce further shrinking with each decade. A tiny 2 per cent of weddings end in divorce after thirty years of marriage, with divorce rates after forty years of marriage even rarer: fewer than 0.5 per cent of couples divorce after being married forty years or more.

Details of the new research will be presented by Mr Benson at the launch of National Marriage Week at 6 pm in the Macmillan Room at the House of Commons on Thursday February 7.

Mr Benson says: “All the change in divorce rates since the 1960s have occurred during the first ten years of marriage. After ten years of marriage, there’s the same chance a couple who marry in 2013 will keep the vow ‘death do us part’ as there was forty years ago.”

Half of all divorces currently take place during the first decade of marriage. There is hope for newlyweds, however, in that the divorce rate during the first ten years of marriage has fallen in recent years from a peak in 1993, a trend Mr Benson predicts will continue.

He adds: “Changes in divorce rates during the first ten years reflect the care we take in forming our relationship in the first place. Couples who marry today are clearly making better choices, with fewer marriages breaking down in the very early years than in the 1990s and early 2000s.”

Within the first decade of marriage, the highest number of divorces occurs between three and six years of marriage, debunking the myth of the ‘seven year itch’. After peaking between three and six years, the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce decreases with each year thereafter.

Mr Benson concluded: “A couple who tie the knot on Valentine’s Day this year have a 39 per cent chance of divorcing during their lifetime.

“The so-called silver surfers – couples divorcing in their twilight years after many decades of marriage – is greatly overhyped and not supported by statistical evidence.

“Our research reveals that if a married couple survive the first ten years of marriage, their risk of divorce is the same as it has been in the previous four decades.”


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

Media Links

Daily Mail, 7th February 2013
by Steve Doughty: “The itch is a myth: Couples who stay married for seven years are likely to stay together for good”

The Telegaph, 8th February 2013
by John Bingham, Social Affairs editor: “Survive the first ten years and marriage stays strong”

The Express, 8th February 2013
by Sarah O’Grady: “Today’s marriages last as long as ever”

London Evening Standard, 8th February 2013
“Divorce rate after 10 years static”

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