More than half of adults in the UK are unmarried, statistics revealed today.
The increasing numbers of the single population, as well as growth of cohabitation by unmarried couples, has led to the decline, according to experts.
Office for National Statistics figures revealed that the proportions of the UK adult population who are married and widowed continue to fall, while the numbers of those who are single or divorced are on the rise.
The trend follows a growing pattern of decline in marriages since the early 1970s.
Of the estimated 44.9million people in England and Wales who are over 16, 48 per cent (21.6million people) were married.
Figures showed that 35.6 per cent were single (16m people), 9.3 per cent were divorced (4.2m) and 7 per cent widowed (3.1m).
A large increase in divorces was noted in the 70s, as the newly-introduced Divorce Reform Act in 1969 came into effect and made it easier for couples to divorce upon separation.
For example 22 per cent of marriages in 1971 had ended by the 15th wedding anniversary, whereas 33 per cent of marriages in 1994 had ended after the same period of time.