The numbers of over 60s divorcing their partners leapt in the decade to 2011, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported.
Almost 9,500 men aged over 60 divorced during 2011, according to the analysis, a substantial 73 per cent jump over the 1991 figures. Similarly, the number of women aged over 60 ending their marriages almost doubled over the same period, from 3,200 in 1991 to 5,800 during 2011.
Overall divorce rates, meanwhile, fell sharply. There were a record 165,000 divorces in 1993, but only 118,000 in 2011. The ONS isolated the figures for divorces amongst men – while those amongst males of all age groups dropped from 13.6 per 1,000 men in 1991 to just 10.8 per 1,000 men in 2011, divorces amongst men aged over 60 increased, from 1.6 per 1,000 in 1991 to 2.3 per cent ten years later.
Amongst women aged over 60, the divorce rate also rose, from 1.2 per 1,0000 in 1991 to the same rate as men, 1.6 per 1,000, in 2011.
The ONS notes that men are more likely than women to marry younger partners:
“So while overall the numbers of men and women divorcing are equal, the number of men aged 60 and over divorcing is usually higher than the number of women in the same age group divorcing because husbands tend to be older than their wives on average.”
Older men are also significantly more likely than younger ones to file for divorce. Amongst men of all age groups, just 34 per cent of divorces are initiated by men, but this rate jumps to 50 per cent amongst the over-60s.
According to the ONS, the steady rise in over-60s divorce is down to a number of social factors, including the fact that both sexes are living longer. The average life expectancy for men increased by five years between 1991 and 2010 – from 81 to 86. The ONS notes:
“This means that even with a small chance of divorce during each year of marriage, marriages are now more likely to end in divorce and less likely to end in the death of one spouse than they were in 1991.”
The ONS also considers the drop in the stigmas associated with divorce, something it believes is related to higher numbers of divorcees in the general population. The number of divorced people in the UK more than tripled during the period in question, from 404,000 in 1991 to 1.3 million in 2010.
In addition, higher numbers of women now work, making them less dependent on men for financial support.