It also has the third highest rate of illegitimacy - one in three British children are now born outside marriage. The figures, in a new EC survey of births, deaths and marriages, show there are 2.9 divorces per 1,000 citizens in Britain.
Next comes Denmark with 2.5 and Belgium with 2.2. The lowest divorce rate is in Greece and Spain, with just 0.6. There are no recorded figures for divorce in Ireland.
The highest rate of illegitimacy is in Denmark - 46.5 per cent of births are outside marriage. In France the figure is 31.8 per cent, followed by 30.8 p
er cent in Britain. In Ireland it is 18 per cent, but only 2.5 per cent in Greece.
The figures show falling numbers of births in the EC but a steady rise in the proportion of extra-marital births, from 10.7 per cent of all EC births in 1982 to 19.5 per cent in 1992.
Portugal's marriage rate is the highest in the EC, with 7.1 marriages per 1,000 population, followed by Britain with 6.5 per 1,000. The lowest rate is 4.5 per 1,000 in Ireland. The infant mortality rate in the EC continues to fall, from 11.4 per cent in 1982 to 7.4 per cent last year. Britain's figure is better than the average at 7 per cent.
The current life expectancy in the EC is 72.8 years for men, 79.4 for women. British men can expect to live a little longer than that - 73.2 years, according to the figures - but British women fall short of the EC average at 78.6 years.
The EC's lowest life expectancy for men is in Portugal, 69.8 years, and the highest Greece, 74.6 years. Women live longest in France, with a life expectancy of 81.3 years. But Irish women have the lowest life expectancy, at 76.7 years.Reuse content