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  • Writer's pictureAlan Jacobs

Why Divorce Among Older Couples Is Soaring

In this excellent blog posting, Dr. Carol R. Hughes and Bruce R. Fredenburg write about a silent revolution that has been unfolding for more than three decades without much comment, creating a seismic shift in American families and families in other countries. Three to four generations of families are feeling the effects. While the divorce rate in younger age groups has declined, people over 50 are divorcing in record-setting numbers.

The American Association of Retired Persons coined the term "gray divorce" in 2004 when it published a study about divorce at midlife and beyond. In 2012, researchers at Bowling Green State University named this phenomenon the “gray divorce revolution.” Their study found the divorce rate for the U.S. population over 50 doubled in those two decades and more than doubled for those over 65. Since half of the married population is 50 and over, these researchers projected that, as the U.S. population ages, by 2030, the number of persons aged 50 and older who divorce will grow by one-third.

The explosion of gray divorces is not isolated to the United States. The same trends are occurring in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Europe, Australia, and India. Canada’s national statistical agency indicates that “grey divorce” has been consistently growing among those 55 and over, including those 65 and older. And rates are expected to increase as more people continue to age. The United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics announced in 2018 that the divorce rate among those 55 or older, dubbed “silver splitters” and "silver surfers," has doubled. In the past two decades in Japan, couples married 30 years or more have seen their divorce rate quadruple. The Japanese are calling it “Retired Husband Syndrome.”

Gray divorce is an undeniable worldwide reality that is transforming the social and economic lives of divorcing couples, family members, and society.

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