By Aaron Earls
Churches working to strengthen marriages in their congregation shouldn’t focus solely on young couples, as new research shows divorce among those 50 and older has more than doubled in the last 25 years.
A Pew Research study of data from the National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau reveals divorce is on the decline among 25- to 39-year-olds, increasing slightly among those 40 to 49, and rising sharply among the older.
Among the youngest individuals, the divorce rate fell 21 percent from 1990 to 2015. Middle-aged couples saw their divorce rates climb 14 percent.
Those 50 and older saw a 109 percent jump in divorces. And among those 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled.
It is still true that the youngest are the most likely to get divorced and the oldest are the least likely.
In 2015, for 1,000 married people ages 25 to 39, 24 divorced. For 40- to 49-year-olds, 21 per 1,000 ended their marriages. Among those over 49, 10 divorced. And for those 65 and older, 6 people divorced.
But churches should not dismiss the growth in divorce among older couples.
As baby boomers enter their 50s, they are bringing with them their unprecedented levels of divorce as young adults. That lack of stability from earlier in life appears to contribute to their higher divorce levels now.
Among married people 50 and older, the divorce rate for those on their second marriage is twice as high as for those on their first marriage.
For older adults, duration of marriage also correlates with divorce rates. The more recent the marriage for those 50 and older, the higher the divorce rate is.
But divorces do happen between older adults who have been married for decades. Among all adults 50 and older who divorced in the past year, 1 in 3 (34 percent) had been in their marriage for at least 30 years.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.