Proportion of married people is declining - ONS

(Photo: Unsplash/Micheile Henderson)

The proportion of adults in Britain who are marrying is in steady decline, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. 

Married or civil partnered was the most common marital status in 2019, accounting for just over half (50.4%) of the population aged 16 and over in England and Wales, but the proportion is slowly falling over time for all ages except those aged 70 years and over, ONS figures show.

Cohabiting was more common among younger age groups - at 69.2% among those aged 16- to 29-years-old, compared to just 4.5% of those aged 70 and over. 

At the same time, the number of people who have never married or been in a civil partnership has been rising, accounting for 35% of over-16s in 2019, soaring to 90.5% among 16- to 29-year-olds.

Overall, the proportion of married men has fallen by 1.9 percentage points since 2009, and married women by 1.4 percentage points. Conversely, the proportion of men and women who have never been married or in a civil partnership has increased by 1.9 percentage points and 2.5 percentage points respectively.

"We see steady changes over time in the marital status of the population of England and Wales aged 16 years and over," the ONS said.

"While there has been a gradual decline in the proportion of the population who are married, the proportion who are single (never married or in a civil partnership) has shown a steady increase."

Despite the decline in married numbers, the Marriage Foundation's Harry Benson was upbeat about the proportion of couples who are married - standing at 78% of all couples in 2019.

"Some may be surprised that such high proportions of couples are married when the popularity of marriage is in long term decline," he said.

"The truth is that while cohabiting may be popular it is also profoundly unstable in the long term. The result is that as time passes, more and more of those who remain as couples are married.

"If you want reliable love, at some stage you have to make a commitment. Whatever people may think about marriage, the reality is that it's still by far the best way to stay together for life."