Divorce rates have been falling in recent years – in 2017, the divorce rate among opposite-sex couples stood at 8.4 per 1,000 married over-16s in the UK, a decrease of 5.6% from the previous year and the lowest rate since 1973.
At that time, and for the whole period from the mid-1960s through to the early 1980s, newborns were part of Generation X, the generation that followed the Baby Boomers and came immediately before what are now commonly known as the Millennials.
So what has caused UK divorce rates to fall to the same level as when Generation X were born? Are the members of this generation themselves responsible for lower divorce rates in Britain?
Other priorities take precedent?
Several of life’s major milestones now take place later in life for most people, for example:
- The average first-time buyer is now aged 30, according to UK Finance data cited by the ONS.
- The average first-time mother is 28.8 and first-time father is 33.4 according to the ONS.
- The average age of all mothers is 30.5 and fathers is 33.4, both up slightly from 2016 to 2017.
With an ageing population, people are not only living for longer, but are also working for longer and taking longer to make major life decisions like buying a house and starting a family.
As these are the kinds of decisions that are closely connected with marriage – moving in together and having a baby – are they also linked with the drop in divorce rates?
Marriage on the back burner
It’s worth noting that it’s not only divorce that’s happening less – it’s marriage, too.
In 2015, the total number of opposite-sex marriages was 239,020, down by 3.4% from the previous year.
This was the lowest per capita rate on record, equivalent to 21.7 marriages per 1,000 unmarried men and 19.8 per 1,000 unmarried women in the UK.
An ONS statistician said at the time: “Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples are now at their lowest level on record following a gradual long-term decline since the early 1970s.”
Again, all signs point to the maturing Generation X as the driving force behind falling rates of both marriages and divorces.
Why leave love for later?
It’s not that Generation X don’t fall in love – it’s just that the nature of relationships, and of what society considers acceptable, has changed hugely in the past few decades.
We have only mentioned opposite-sex marriages above, but there are now of course civil partnerships and same-sex marriages, not to mention cohabitation, long-distance relationships and all manner of less common lifestyles too.
The ability to find love online and via smartphone apps is leading more people to opt for casual dating for longer before settling down with a single partner for life.
And the financial pressures of building a successful career, buying a house and saving for retirement are all delaying both marriage and divorce until later in life as well.
The important thing is to be happy – whether that means waiting until later in life, living in an unmarried relationship of any kind, or choosing to divorce and end an unhappy marriage.
Generation X, and even more so Millennials, are the generations who have been told they can have it all, and divorce mediators are here to help all parties get the happiness you deserve, no matter what stage you are at in life.