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This Britain

Divorce numbers fall to lowest since 1974

The number of couples getting divorced is going down, according to the latest official figures.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics showed the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2009 was 113,949, a 6.4% decrease since 2008 when there were 121,708, and the lowest since 1974.

It is the sixth consecutive year that the number of divorces has fallen, from a peak of 153,065 in 2003.

The figures equate to a rate of 10.5 people divorcing per 1,000 married population in 2009, down from a rate of 11.2 in 2008, the ONS said.

This is the lowest rate since 1977, when there were 10.3 divorcing people per 1,000 married people.

Compared with 2008, divorce rates fell across all age groups for both men and women, while for the fifth year running those in their late 20s had the highest divorce rates.

In that age group, there were 21.7 men and 25.1 women divorcing per 1,000 married males and females.

Meanwhile, the ONS figures revealed the average age at divorce increased slightly for men and women in 2009 - 44 for men in 2009 compared with 43.9 in 2008, and 41.5 for women compared with 41.4 in 2008.

Across the UK, the number of divorces fell by 7% to 126,496 in 2009, down from 135,994 in 2008.