The rapid rise in couples who choose to live together without being married may be acting as a “firewall” to stop unstable relationships from ending years later in divorce, according to research.
In the early 1960s, fewer than one in 100 adults under the age of 50 were living together as unmarried couples, the study from the Office for National Statistics found.
But now the figure has risen to one in six, as cohabitation becomes more widely accepted and is no longer seen as “socially deviant”, the report said.
In the early 1960s, three quarters of adults under the age of 50 were married, but this had fallen to just over one-third by 2009, the ONS said.
The research, conducted by academics at the University of Southampton, found that adults were increasingly delaying their relationship commitments until later in life.
“Men and women now enter their first partnership about two years later, on average, than in the early 1980s,” the study said.