ONS reveals UK divorce rate is increasing

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  • Author: Statistics Views and Elizabeth McLaren
  • Date: 07 February 2014
  • Copyright: Graph appears courtesy of the Office for National Statstics

The Office for National Statistics has this week revealed that the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2012 increased by 0.5% in comparison to 2011. The number of divorces was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44. Key findings in the latest release uncover that the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2012 was 118,140, an increase of 0.5% since 2011, when there were 117,558 divorces.

In 2012, 10.8 people divorced per thousand married population, a decrease of 19% compared with 13.3 in 2002. The number of divorces in 2012 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44. For those married in 1972, 22% of marriages had ended in divorce by their 15th wedding anniversary whereas for those married in 1997, almost a third of marriages had ended by this time.

thumbnail image: ONS reveals UK divorce rate is increasing

The number of divorces has remained relatively stable since 2010, fluctuating just below the number recorded in 2010. The fall in divorces to 2009 is consistent with a decline in the number of marriages. The decrease in marriages to 2009 may be due to the increasing number of couples choosing to cohabit rather than enter into marriage.

The figure above shows the changing trend in the number of divorces since 1932, as well as changes in the number of marriages. The number of divorces generally increased between 1932 and the early 1990s as a result of changes in behaviour and attitudes. The large increase in the late 1940s (following the end of the Second World War) is considered to be attributable to women’s increased participation in the labour force which meant couples were no longer as financially dependent on each other. The large increase observed during the 1970s was associated with the Divorce Reform Act 1969, which came into effect in England and Wales on 1 January 1971, making it easier for couples to divorce upon separation.

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