Key Facts on Committed Relationships / by Mark Weber

  • The number of marriages taking place in England and Wales per year has been in decline since the early 70s, decreasing from 404,734 in 1971 to just232,443in 2009. (Source: Office for National Statistics, 2012)
  • This decline is also reflected in the proportion of the population getting married. In England and Wales in 2010, only 21.8 men in every 1000 of the eligible population got married compared to 60.4 men in 1980.  For women, the proportion reduced from 48.1 women in every 1000 in 1980, to 19.8 women in every 1000 in 2010. (Source: ONS, 2012)
  • Despite this drop, marriage remains popular in England and Wales and it is still the most common form of partnership. About two thirds of people aged over 20 were thought to be living as a married couple in 2007. (Source: ONS, 2011)
  • People are waiting until later in life to get married. In 1970 in England and Wales, on average women married at the age of 22.0, and men at 24.1. This had risen to 30.8 for women and 33.4 for men by 2009. (Source: ONS, 2011)
  • This delay in marriage may be due to couples choosing to live together rather than marry. The number of couples cohabiting has nearly doubled over the past seven years. In 2004, there were approximately 142,300 cohabiting couples in England and Wales. This had risen to approximately 285,300 in 2011. (Source: ONS, 2011)
  • Many couples who cohabit still eventually marry in the long-term however.  After 10 years of living together, half have married, 40% have split up, and only 10% continue to cohabit.  (Source: Centre for Population Change, 2011)
  • The number of civil partnerships between same-sex couples have reduced and levelled off since the high levels of uptake that followed the 2005 legislative changes introducing it(ONS, 2010), though figures from last year indicated an increase of 6.4% from 2010 (6, 795 partnerships; ONS, 2012).
  • Attitudes towards cohabitation in the UK are becoming steadily more positive: in 1989, 71% of survey respondents thought that couples wanting children ought to get married.  By 2002 this had dropped to 51%. (Source: British Social Attitudes Survey, 1989-2002)
  • Stepfamilies are one of the fastest growing family forms: 40% of all marriages are remarriages for one or both partners. (Source: ONS, 2011)