Married couples have weathered Covid storm well, study finds

(Photo: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao)

The number of couples considering divorce dropped by two-thirds during the pandemic, according to a new study. 

Between 2017-19, an average of 2.5 per cent of married dads and 5.6 per cent of married mums said they were considering divorce. 

But by June 2020, three months after the start of the first UK lockdown, this had fallen to 0.6 per cent of married dads and 1.1 per cent of married mums.

By September, the proportion of married dads saying they wanted to divorce had risen slightly but still remained much lower than pre-pandemic levels at just 1 per cent, while married mums saying the same had fallen to 0.7 per cent. 

The study is based on responses from 3,005 parents in the UK Household Longitudinal Coronavirus survey from the ONS, which covers the period up to September 2020. 

Co-habiting parents were found to be struggling more, with six per cent of dads saying their relationship had got worse. This soared to 22 per cent among cohabiting mothers.  A high proportion of cohabiting mothers also admitted to being unhappy in their relationship (18.4 per cent).

Harry Benson, Marriage Foundation's Research Director, said the study suggests that spending more time with each other has been beneficial for married couples.

"This data busts the myth that there is going to be a divorce boom anytime soon," he said. 

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of Marriage Foundation, said the findings were "very encouraging" for those who are married.

"It shows that the predicted Covid divorce boom is still not even on the horizon, let alone just around the corner," he said.

"It seems that the centuries old marriage vows 'for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health' still resonate and hold good for the majority of married couples who are hanging in there through thick and thin even whilst their relationships are being stress tested.

"These couples seem to have benefitted from extra time together and the mutual public commitment made by the couple at the time of the marriage is surely key.

"By contrast those, especially unmarried cohabiting mothers, who have lower initial levels of commitment are struggling with the strain of lockdown amplified by the ambiguity of their primary relationships.

"Let us hope that government, in the post Covid analysis period will focus on the significance of these findings and realise that bolstering family stability by supporting marriage is not just about a nod to tradition for its own sake but hugely beneficial for individuals, the family and ultimately society as a whole.

"We all, especially our children, would be the winners."