Just HALF of Adults Are Married, as Single Population Increases

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s: Man looking at woman's ring. (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

Marriage rates continue to fall, with just half of people in England and Wales being married.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday revealed that of the population aged over 16 in the two countries, 50.5 per cent were married in 2018, down from 51 per cent in 2017.

The number of people who are single and have never been married continues to grow, increasing to 16.7 million people, or 35 per cent — more than one-third — of the marriageable population.

The proportion of those cohabiting — people who live with a partner but who are not married and have never been married — has also continued to increase, to 10.4 per cent.

The ONS said of the figures that despite the decline in the proportion of marriages, it has not be consistent across all ages, with the majority of the decrease being concentrated between the age ranges of 20 to 34 years and 45 to 69 years.

“This pattern may be explained by the increasing trend for people at younger ages to postpone marriage and increasing numbers of people choosing not to get married at all,” they said.

A previous study by the ONS has found young Britons are undertaking important milestones in personal growth at an older age than in previous generations, including moving out of the parental home (23), getting married (32), and women having their first child (29). While the latter two would appear to be the wrong way around — having children before getting married — the statistics agency noted in February that “in the UK today, people in their 20s are more likely to have children than be married”.

The new marriage statistics also include the number of same-sex marriages, with the ONS noting there had been a 78 per cent increase in gay weddings between 2017 and 2018, increasing from around 68,000 to around 120,000.

Statistics by the ONS revealed last month that the birth rate in England and Wales had fallen again and was at its lowest level since records began, lower than even during the Second World War when conscription robbed the nation of huge numbers of young men. The fall was largely driven by lifestyle choices, where women are waiting longer to start a family and are affected by the inevitable conception problems associated with the rapidly falling rate of natural female fertility after around the age of 30.

The fertility rate in England and Wales in 2018 was just 1.7 children per woman, short of the 2.1 children needed to sustain a steady population. Britons are not alone in failing to meet that figure, with figures from March revealing that not one single EU country met the replacement level.

However, despite the fall in marriages and births, the UK continues to see a rise in population, with analysis of official government statistics finding that 82 per cent of population growth in the 21st-century is down to immigration.

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