Older couples are now more likely to file for divorce

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Couples are increasingly filing for divorce aged in their fifties and sixties, a report to be published next week says.

Couples are increasingly filing for divorce aged in their fifties and sixties, a report to be published next week says.

People are now less likely to stay in an unhappy marriage than before, even when they are pensioners, according to the survey by the Future Foundation for the Saga company.

The divorce rate among the over 50s age group has risen by 8.7 per cent in the past five years, it found. Over the past 10 years, the average age at which people divorce has also increased, from 39 to 42 for men and from 36 to 39 for women.

One in seven people aged 50 to 64 is now a divorcee, according to the survey, compared to one in eight among the 35 to 49 age group.

Michael Cutbill, marketing director of Saga, said that the trend was also due to the over 50s "catching up" with the rest of society. "Over-50s marriages are more stable than those between younger couples, statistically speaking," he said. "But they are not immune to wider trends in society and their divorce rates are increasing.

"The survey has shown what many of us have long believed - that where there's divorce in one generation, there's more chance of it happening again in a later generation."

Relationship counsellors also pointed to "empty nest syndrome", where marriages break down after children have grown up and couples are left alone together. In addition, the increasing financial independence of women has also meant that wives are no longer reliant on their husband's income or their pension as they approach retirement themselves.

Scotland, the West Midlands and the South-east have the highest proportion of over 50s divorces, while Wales, East Anglia and Yorkshire have the lowest.

The survey also found that people whose grandparents were divorced were twice as likely to see their own parents split up as well; one third of people whose grandparents had divorced also had divorced parents, compared with just 15 per cent of people whose parents were divorced but whose grandparents were still together.

The think-tank Demos has predicted that two million elderly people will be living alone within the next decade, partly because of the boom in later-life divorces. More than 14 million Britons now live alone, having either remained single or been divorced or widowed, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Paula Hall, a counsellor from Relate, the relationship advisory network, said: "People are living longer and healthier lives and therefore people have more choices than ever. Someone in their 50s who is in an unhappy relationship could face a further 30 or 40 active years."

She agreed with two of the main forces underpinning the increase in older divorce rates: "Some couples will have stayed together for the sake of the children, but as the children leave home, they realise there really is nothing left holding them together. Women also have more financial independence and may still enjoy successful careers right up to retirement; this gives them a freedom that previous generations didn't have."

And she points to one freedom divorcees of both sexes are finding: "As more and more older couples separate, there are more and more single men and women on the market. Not only does this help to reduce the stigma of divorce, but also provides an opportunity to look for love second time around."