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26 MAR 2008

Marriage rates fall to lowest on record

Marriage rates in England and Wales have fallen to the lowest level since records began, according to provisional figures for 2006 released today by the Office for National Statistics.

The number of unmarried adults rose in 2006, but the number who chose to marry fell, producing the lowest marriage rates since they were first calculated in 1862. In 2006 the marriage rate for men was 22.8 men marrying per 1,000 unmarried men aged 16 and over, down from 24.5 in 2005. The marriage rate for women in 2006 was 20.5 women marrying per 1,000 unmarried women aged 16 and over, down from 21.9 in 2005.

The number of marriages fell by 4 per cent in 2006 compared with 2005 to 236,980. With the exception of an increase between 2002 and 2004, this follows the declining long-term trend observed in recent decades and is the lowest annual number of marriages since 1895 when there were 228,204.

There was a change in law from 1 February 2005, which was designed to discourage 'sham marriages'. This is one of many factors that may have contributed to the fall in the number of marriages in 2006 and 2005.

Final figures for divorces in 2005 were also released today. These statistics show that divorces rates fell in 2005 compared with 2004 to 13.1 divorces per 1,000 married people in England and Wales and the number of divorces fell by 8 per cent compared with the previous year.

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