The proportion of people who are married in England and Wales has fallen from 50 per cent in mid-1979 to 40 per cent in mid-2009, according to new research from the Office of National Statistics.
The estimated number of married people in England and Wales was 21.7 million in mid-2009, down 16,000 compared with the previous year.
The proportion of people who are single has risen from 40 per cent in mid-1979 to 47 per cent in mid-2009. The proportion of people who are widowed remained stable throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, but has been slowly declining from 7 per cent in mid-1995 to 6 per cent in mid-2009. The divorce rate has been slowly rising, from 2 per cent in mid-1979 to 8 per cent in mid-2009.
More people are travelling abroad to get married. According to estimates derived from the International Passenger Survey, the number of residents of England and Wales who travel abroad to marry has increased each year since mid-2004, with the estimate exceeding 90,000 in mid-2009.
Almost twice as many men travel abroad to get married than women. For the period mid-2002 to mid-2009 estimates have shown a net number of 316,000 men and 159,000 women travelling abroad to marry. Almost 2 per cent of all married people in mid-2009 married abroad.