Divorce in Europe


Europe is known for having a low divorce rate compared to the US, but by most people’s standards it’s still unfortunately very high and this is more a matter of the divorce rate in the US being so high rather than of the rate in Europe being low. While estimates and statistics vary, the US is generally considered to have a divorce rate of around .5%, while the highest in Europe is Russia (with 3.36%) and the UK (around .38%). Also up there is Finland (.25%), Portugal (0.08%), Tunisia (0.08%) and Greece (0.07%).

This might sound a lot less that the ’1 in 3′ marriages that gets bandied about, but it’s worth noting that these numbers reflect a percentage of the population. In other words, these numbers include children, the elderly and all the un-married couples. In other words then the number of marriages is also factored into these results and skews the percentages.

Countries then that have not appeared on this list are not necessarily innocent – in Germany for instance nearly 35% of marriages end in divorce and around 40% of those that occurred after 1995. This is still lower than general estimates for divorces in the US however. In the EU in general 37.4% of children were born out of wedlock in 2010 alone.

Still though it seems that divorce rates are lower in Europe generally than in the US. But why this difference in divorce rates? What is Europe’s secret, and what is it about Russia and the UK that makes them less successful in marriage than their European neighbours?

There are many explanations for the differences in divorce rates between Europe and the US and the differences within the EU. For instance some will point to cultural differences, and of course religion is very discouraging of divorce rates. Meanwhile you could blame the variation in lifespan, in lifestyles (homes where both partners work are more likely to lead to divorce), in economic conditions (some people simply can’t afford to divorce) or in the laws surrounding divorce – some countries make it more difficult than others to divorce. It is interesting to note that the waiting period in the US for a divorce is only 0-2 years whereas it’s 0-6 years in most of Europe. Meanwhile many of the countries with the lowest percentages have a mandatory counselling period.

The media may also play a role by exposing us to more alternative lifestyles. Working hours could also impact on divorce rates and it’s worth noting here that the US, UK and Russia are all countries that are renowned for working long hours.

It’s important to remember though that these are rough statistics and that they should not be taken as gospel. The general take home message here though is that people are far quicker to get divorced that most of us would like, and that some of this clearly is down to our lifestyles and culture.