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Divorce rate rises for over 60s but falls for rest of population

Posted
August 10, 2013
Family Law

There were 31,000 divorces in England and Wales in 1950. The number of divorces rose sharply in the early 1970s after the Divorce Reform Act 1969 came into effect in 1971. This Act made it easier for couples to divorce. Divorces peaked in 1993 when 165,000 divorces were recorded before falling to 118,000 in 2011, the latest year for which divorce statistics are available. The number of divorces to men aged 60 and over also rose during the 1970s before stabilising during the 1980s and 1990s at between 5,000 and 6,000 divorces a year. The number increased again in the late 1990s and in 2011, nearly 9,500 men aged 60 and over divorced. This is a 73% increase compared with 1991. Similar trends are observed for women aged 60 and over; 5,800 women in this age group divorced in 2011 compared with 3,200 in 1991. It should be noted that men aged 60 and over could be getting divorced from women of any age (and vice versa for women aged 60 and over). So while overall the numbers of men and women divorcing are equal, the number of men aged 60 and over divorcing is usually higher than the number of women in the same age group divorcing because husbands tend to be older than their wives on average. Part of the reason for this increase in the numbers of older people divorcing is that the population of England and Wales is growing and ageing. Therefore, examining changes in divorce rates (the number of divorces per 1,000 married men or women) provides a better indication of trends over time. Taking men of all ages as an example, there were 10.8 divorces per 1,000 married men in 2011, a decrease from 13.6 in 1991. For those aged 60 and over there were 2.0 or more divorces per 1,000 married men in the 1970s after the Divorce Reform Act came into effect. This then fell to 1.6 in 1991. Since then divorce rates in this age group have increased to 2.3 per 1,000 married men in 2011, in contrast to the downward trend seen for all ages. Even with this rise, still relatively few older men are getting divorced. Again, the trends in the rates are similar for older women as there were 1.2 divorces per 1,000 married women aged 60 and over in 1991, rising to 1.6 in 2011. 

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