Sharp rise in number of over-60s getting divorced in England and Wales
Harder for “baby boomers” to stay together
The rise in divorces is partly explained by increased life expectancy “so that even with a small chance of divorce [each year], marriages are now more likely to end in divorce and less likely to end in the death of one spouse than they were”, said the Office for National Statistics.
Divorce rates among people in their 60s in England and Wales have tripled in 20 years, according to official figures yesterday, which warns that the “baby boomer” generation needs help to keep relationships going.
The changes are partly explained by increased life expectancy “so that even with a small chance of divorce [each year], marriages are now more likely to end in divorce and less likely to end in the death of one spouse than they were”, said the Office for National Statistics.
However, a loss of stigma surrounding divorce among older age groups also explains the rise, which means that couples do not feel under the same pressure as before from children, neighbours or friends to stay together.
Despite the burgeoning numbers of “grey divorcees”, or “silver splitters”, divorce is becoming less common in England and Wales, not more: the total number of divorces in 2011 is now more than a quarter less than took place in 1991.
In 2011, 118,000 divorces were reported, compared with 165,000 in 1991. Nearly 9,500 of them involved men aged 60 or older, an increase of 73 per cent on 1991, while 5,800 of them involved women over 60, up from 3,200.
Meanwhile, the increasing financial independence enjoyed by older women – the number of whom worked outside the home rose by a fifth in two decades – means that more of them have their own pensions.
The changing habits are bringing an end to marriages that have already faced numerous earlier challenges, since the average duration of marriages involving men that come to an end is 27.5 years, while for women it is nearly 32 years.
Warning that relationships are under “increasing pressure” in England and Wales, marriage guidance organisation Relate said marriage break-ups cost £44 billion each year.
Urging couples to prepare for later life, Relate said many “can’t wait for the kids to move out, and to retire so you can get back to romantic strolls on the beach, amazing holidays and indulgent weekends”, but others face “real strains”.
“It’s hard to be ‘just a couple’ again ,” it said.