A study of official figures appears to show that middle aged people living in the UK are turning their back on marriage faster than any other generation.
The number of people over 40 in England and Wales living with a partner outside marriage has risen by over 70 per cent in just ten years, in comparison to cohabitation which has risen by just a third overall.
The number of people aged over 40 and not living with a partner also rose by more than a half between the 2001 and 2011 censuses which is the biggest increase seen in any age group.
A study comparing living arrangements with marital status figures between the 2001 and 2011 censuses has also identified seaside towns, including Blackpool, Hastings, Torbay and Weymouth, as being the ‘divorce capitals’ of the UK with the highest concentrations of divorcees in England and Wales. In comparison, Harrow in north-west London has been identified as having the lowest divorce rate with just one in 20 residents being divorced.
Interestingly, many of the areas with the lowest rates of cohabitation – including Harrow, Redbridge, Newham and Brent – are all ethnically diverse areas which have some of the highest levels of religious affiliation. Whilst married people are in the minority for the first time – something which we’ve covered in one of our previous blog posts – the numbers of people who are cohabiting has risen sharply.
In 2011 more than 5.3 million adults in England and Wales were cohabiting, a figure which has increased from just 4 million a decade earlier. However, the number of people cohabiting in the 40 to 49 age group has risen sharply from just over 649,000 to 1.1 million.
Commenting on the figures in an article on the Telegraph website, Vicki McLynn, a principal lawyer in the family department at Slater & Gordon solicitors, said: “What these statistics show is that marriage can be a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ for many individuals.
“The number of individuals, particularly in their forties, who choose to cohabit, corresponds with the group accounting for the largest proportion of divorce.
“That suggests that their experience of the divorce process has had a negative influence on their decision about whether to remarry in the future.
“These figures support the urgent need, therefore, for changes in divorce law of the kind proposed recently by the Law Commission.
“Many have intimated that divorce reform might weaken the institution of marriage when, in fact, robust and realistic change may actually make people who have been divorced more willing to try once again to find lasting happiness in marriage.”