Marriage rate continues to decline while 1 in 6 are cohabiting

Bianca Ffolkes

Married couples now make up less than half the adult population, new figures from the Office for National Statistics confirmed.

The trend of marriage declining is a result of the changing attitudes towards cohabitation over the last 30 years.

An estimated one in six people are now cohabiting with their partner as the number of married couples continues to decline, husbands and wives made up just 48 per cent (21.5million) of the adult population (44.9Million) of England and Wales in 2010.

The ONS report said: “One of the main reasons for the decrease in the married population and the increase in the single population is the growth of cohabitation by unmarried couples.”

[Relevant: Jilted on her wedding day: how one woman's wedding dream went wrong]

“In the early 1960s in Britain fewer than one in a hundred adults under 50 are estimated to have been cohabiting at any one time, compared with one in six in 2010.”

At the same time, as fewer couples are deciding to marry, there is also evidence that the divorce rate is starting to drop. Just fewer than 114,000 couples were granted a divorce in 2009, the lowest figure since 1974.

In 2010 51.9 per cent of the adult population was single, divorced or widowed.

In the last decade, the number of singletons has also rocketed five per cent, meaning that 16 million Britonsare living without a partner.

[See also: Why I use extra-martial affairs site to spice up my marriage]

The difficulty young people face with unemployment and the increased cost of living is another factor that is said to be contributing to the decline.

Anastasia de Waal, of the Civitas think-tank, said: “When interpreting these statistics it's crucially important to factor in the gap between what couples want to do and what they are doing in practice.

“Attitude surveys repeatedly show us that the majority of young people today would like to marry, an aspiration which is notably highest amongst cohabiting couples. In harder times, many couples feel that they are not able to afford the requisites - not so much the wedding itself, but things such as owning a home and a car.”

She added: “As such, steady rises in unemployment and the cost of living over recent years may well be a key contributor to a continuing drop in the number of married couples.”

Looking for love? Find someone special with Yahoo!

The health benefits of being in love

Infidelity no longer the main cause for divorce in the UK

Women gain weight after marriage, men after divorce