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​​Divorce among older individuals who have been together for a long time is increasing in the United States. While early divorces have been relatively common for some time, this new trend – known as ‘gray divorce’ – is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Marriage and divorce are complex subjects influenced by numerous factors. This guide aims to use statistics to examine whether age plays a significant role in divorce rates. Divorce rates have evolved over time and are influenced by a combination of age, socioeconomic status, and generational trends.

Do 50% of Divorces Really End in Divorce?

The 50% divorce rate myth, commonly cited in the past, no longer accurately reflects the current situation. Divorce rates have been steadily declining for several decades. It’s essential to understand that the likelihood of divorce varies greatly depending on numerous factors.

In 2019, divorce rates in the United States reached a 50-year record low, with only 7.6 divorces occurring per 1,000 marriages.: The decline in divorce rates is particularly pronounced among younger generations, specifically those aged 25 to 39.

Between 1990 and 2015, the divorce rate in this age group dropped from 30 per 1,000 married individuals to 24. This decline is attributed to younger individuals being more selective in their choice of partners and delaying marriage until they are more financially and emotionally stable.

Are Long-Term Couples Less Likely to Divorce?

Despite the overall decrease in divorce rates, there has been a notable increase in what is known as “gray divorce.” This term refers to divorces among U.S. adults aged 50 and older. In 2015, 10 out of every 1,000 married individuals in this age group got divorced, compared to only 5 in 1990. This phenomenon challenges the notion that divorce rates decrease as individuals age.

While there is no precise data on divorce within the first year of marriage, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that approximately 22% of first marriages ended within the first five years due to divorce, separation, or death between 2011 and 2015. This suggests that early divorces are relatively common.

The relationship between age and divorce risk is intricate. By the time individuals reach their mid-50s, a significant portion has experienced at least one divorce. However, among adults aged 55 to 64, approximately 43% have been divorced, which drops to 39% for those aged 65 to 74 and 24% for those aged 75 and older. These statistics indicate that divorce risk may not necessarily decrease with age but rather follows a specific pattern.

Which Factors Make Divorce More Probable?

Many factors contribute to divorce rates such as:

Lack of Commitment

A fundamental lack of commitment to the marriage can lead to its dissolution. This could include infidelity. Cheating can erode trust and intimacy in a marriage, often leading to divorce.

Financial Problems

Financial stress and disagreements about money can strain a marriage to the breaking point. This can include issues with financial debt, a lack of transparency, or problems with gambling. (See also: How to Save Money on a Divorce)

Marrying at a Young Age

Marrying at a very young age often means that individuals have not had the opportunity to fully mature or understand what they want in a partner, contributing to divorce risk.

High Conflict and Frequent Fighting

Continuous and intense conflicts can undermine the foundation of a marriage. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and a breakdown of emotional connection. The presence of domestic violence can also be a compelling reason for divorce.

Substance Misuse

Substance abuse problems can place significant strain on a marriage.

Lack of Support from Family

Family dynamics and lack of support from relatives can impact a marriage negatively. This problem even extends before the marriage: a lack of preparation or understanding about what marriage entails can contribute to divorce.

Religious Differences

Fundamental differences in religious beliefs and practices can lead to conflicts in a marriage if this issue is not discussed and managed in a way that keeps both parties appy.

Psychological Factors

Individuals high in neuroticism, characterized by traits such as irritability, anxiety, self-consciousness, depression, and emotional instability, often experience lower levels of marital satisfaction. These emotional struggles can strain a marriage.

Conversely, couples high in diligence or carefulness are more satisfied with their marital life. Their conscientious approach to managing challenges and conflicts contributes to marital stability.

Did COVID-19 Impact Divorce Rates?

According to the 2021 American Family Survey, 42% of married or cohabiting adults reported that the pandemic deepened their commitment to their relationship. The challenges posed by the pandemic brought some couples closer.

On the other hand, 12% of respondents said the pandemic made them question the strength of their marriage or relationship. The stress and uncertainty of the pandemic strained some relationships.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, divorce rates have generally decreased over the years, but the connection between age and divorce is intricate. While older individuals, particularly those in the “gray divorce” category, are experiencing a higher divorce rate compared to younger generations, divorce risk is influenced by numerous other factors.

Each marriage is unique, and the decision to divorce is shaped by individual circumstances and choices. Understanding these complexities is crucial when discussing divorce trends and their relationship to age.

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