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  1. ITV Report

Growing old together: Greater proportion of over-70s are married - but younger people snub tying the knot

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

A greater proportion of people aged over 70 are married, more so than ever before, new figures show.

Meanwhile, the number of people who are single or have never married has continued to increase, rising by 369,000 from 2017, to a total of 16.7 million people (35.0%) in 2018.

Overall, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of the population in England and Wales who are married has continued to decline in 2018 to 50.5%, down from 51.0% in 2017.

But the number of people in same-sex marriages has almost doubled in a year to 120,000, it revealed.

Percentage of people in age groups who are married. Credit: ONS

The number of people who live with a partner and have never married has continued to increase, rising by 1.3 million people since 2008, to a total of 5.0 million (10.4%) in 2018.

Edward Morgan, from the Office for National Statistics' Centre for Ageing and Demography said: “We are seeing a different trend in those aged 70 and above who are experiencing increases in the proportion of people who are married.

"This could be due to a number of reasons including people marrying later in life than in the past, people living longer or there could be more remarriages at older ages.”

Proportion of single people in England and Wales. Credit: ONS

The ONS also revealed that between 2017 and 2018, the number of people in England and Wales in a same-sex marriage increased from around 68,000 to around 120,000, a 78% increase.

While this rise in the number of people in a same-sex marriage appears large, this is a small share of the overall population - 0.5% in 2018, up from 0.3% in 2017.

The increase is likely because of the relatively recent introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014.

The number of people in same sex marriages has almost doubled in a year. Credit: PA

The decline in the proportion of the population who are married has not been consistent across all ages.

The majority of the decrease has been concentrated between ages 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.

Mr Morgan, of the ONS, added: “In England and Wales, around half of the population aged 16 years and over were married in 2018.

"The proportion of people married has been in decline over the last decade, while the single population has been increasing.

“However, those in their 70s and beyond are seeing a different trend where, despite a modest rise in the divorced population, the proportion of people aged 70 years and over who are married has been increasing at a greater rate.”

The number of cohabiting couples is on the increase. Credit: ONS

In 2018, 61.4% of the population (29.3 million) were living with a partner in England and Wales. This breaks down to:

  • 48.3% of the population were living as “married or civil partner couples”
  • 10.4% of the population as “cohabiting, never married or civil partnered”
  • 2.7% of the population as “cohabiting, previously married or civil partnered”
  • The remaining 38.6% (18.5 million) were not living as couples. This includes those living alone, living with friends or with other family members.

While overall the proportion of the population who are divorced has remained broadly the same over time, the age profile of the divorced population has also shifted since 2008.

A smaller share of people under the age of 55 years were divorced in 2018, while the share of the divorced population has risen for those aged 55 years and over.

This could be partly because of people increasingly getting married later in life, the ONS suggested.

Despite the rise in the proportion of the divorced population who were aged 70 years and over in 2018, the rise of the size of the married population who are 70 years and over has been greater.