There has been an increase in the amount of elderly who get divorced.
There has been an increase in the amount of elderly who get divorced.

Divorces have doubled amongst the elderly

Amongst younger married couples, the proportion of divorces has decreased.

Twice the proportion of married couples over the age of 60 get divorced today compared to 20 years ago.

Also amongst people aged 50, there is a doubling in the proportion of divorces, compared to 30 years ago. This is shown by the divorce statistics of Statistics Norway (SSB).

If we look at the amount of divorces, the increase is even greater. But there are more and more elderly people in Norway, so it is more correct to look at the proportion of divorced couples.

In the general population, the proportion that gets divorced has decreased.

It has fallen by around 20 per cent since the turn of the millennium.

People are older when they have children

The increase in ‘grey divorces’ is a development we have seen over several years and in several countries, researcher Kenneth Wiik at SSB reports.

“People both get married and have children later in life. And it is quite common to wait to separate until the children have moved away from home,” he says. “So it's perhaps not so surprising that we now get a larger proportion of divorced amongst those who are a little older.”

Fewer people in their 30s and 40s get divorced

Many who marry today are in their 30s and 40s.

Amongst married couples of this age, the statistics show a clear decrease in the proportion who divorce, compared to two decades ago.

Here, the SSB researcher reminds us that very many people now cohabit before they get married.

“Unfortunately, none of our statistics capture figures for cohabitants who choose to separate,” he says. “But when almost everyone who gets married today have already been cohabiting for a few years, this naturally leads to a decrease in the divorce rate amongst younger married couples compared to the past. Many have separated as cohabitants.”

A number of years ago, we saw that the divorce figures increased year by year. This trend is now over.

Much of the explanation probably lies in the fact that so many are now cohabiting, Wiik assumes.

Same divorce rate

  • In 1991, twice as many people divorced in their 20s and 30s compared to couples in their 50s.
  • Today, the proportion of divorced people is almost exactly the same for all age groups up to 50 years of age.

Figures from SSB.

Can manage on their own

Rune Zahl-Olsen researches marriage and divorce at Sørlandet Hospital. He is also a couples therapist.

“I can recognise the development in SSB's statistics from my practice. More elderly couples are choosing to divorce," he tells

Zahl-Olsen reminds us that the married couple of today is different from before:

“People are healthy for longer. Many also have better finances than before. More people therefore think that they can manage on their own," he says.

Want to experience more

In general, more is required of cohabitation and marriage today than in the past, the couples therapist believes.

“Today, your spouse must be able to contribute intellectually, financially and sexually,” he says.

In his practice, Zahl-Olsen has met many people who talk about wanting to move on in life, that they want to experience more.

“In the past, marriage was in large part about security. Today, it's more about having a good and fun time together,” Zahl-Olsen says. "If one party is unable to deliver on this or the other party demands a lot, it becomes easier for the marriage to dissolve."


Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.

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