The accepted wisdom is that divorce rates have dropped since the 1980s, and divorce rates have been declining since. A new report out of Great Britain is showing just the opposite, that divorce rates are increasing.

A recent article from the BBC in London reports that there were 106,959 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2016 – an increase of 5.8% from 2015. It was the biggest year-on-year rise in divorce rates since 1985, when there was a jump of 10.9%.

Of 112 divorces of same-sex couples in 2016, 78% involved female couples.

Charity Relate said rising levels of household debt and stagnating wages could be putting a strain on marriages. For those in opposite-sex marriages, divorce rates were highest for women in their 30s and men aged between 45 and 49.

Overall, there were 8.9 divorces per 1,000 married men and women.

Florida and Divorce Rates

I’ve written about divorce rates in the United States before. Part of the problem with counting divorces in the U.S., is that collecting divorce statistics in the United States is not consistent.

Some counties in some states keep excellent records of finalized divorce cases, an important statistic in measuring divorce rates. Miami-Dade County, for instance has excellent records of filing online. However, other counties in Florida and outside of Florida may not.

Additionally, different American states, and the federal Census Bureau, have had a rocky history of collecting the data from across the country on divorce rates. In fact, the federal government has stopped providing financial support for detailed state collection.

Some states, especially California, have stopped reporting divorce rates entirely.

In the U.S., the increase in divorce rates is being blamed on the Baby Boomers, those born between 1945 and 1954. In the 1970s, Baby Boomers, who were then in their twenties, were equally likely to divorce.

But by 1990, couples in their twenties were more stable, but the Baby Boomers, who were entering their forties, continued to divorce “at unprecedented rates.” Since then, the biggest rise in divorce has the “massive increase” in divorce among women in their fifties.

Back in the UK

A spokeswoman in the Britain said: “Although the number of divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales increased by 5.8% in 2016 compared with 2015, the number remains 30% lower than the most recent peak in 2003; divorce rates for men and women have seen similar changes.”

The most common reason for the increase in divorce rates was “unreasonable behaviour”, with 51% of women and 36% of men citing it in their divorce petitions. Unreasonable behaviour can include having a sexual relationship with someone else.

Overall, women initiated proceedings in 61% of opposite-sex divorces.

Commenting on divorce rates, Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the relationship support charity Relate, said: “It is unclear as to why there was a slight increase in divorces in 2016 and as to whether this rise will continue or not.

“We know that money worries are one of the top strains on relationships and it may be that rising levels of household debt and stagnating pay growth could be contributing factors.”

“Divorce is not something that people tend to take lightly but our research suggests that many people could have saved their marriage and avoided divorce with the right support.”

The BBC report is available here.