In 2006, according to the Office for National Statistics, only 22.8 men per
1,000 unmarried men aged 16 and over got married, down from 24.5 a year
earlier. Among women, the rate was 20.5, down from 21.9. These are the
lowest rates since data on marriage was first collected in 1862.
A total of 236,980 marriage ceremonies were performed in 2006, or four per
cent fewer compared to 2005.
Jill Kirby, director of the London-based Centre for Policy Studies, warned
that the nation cannot afford to let marriage be "lost as the core
institution of society."
"A clear reason for concern is that research demonstrates how important
marriage is to maintain stability for children," she told The Guardian. "The
break-up of cohabiting couples is much higher than married couples.
Cohabitation is clearly not a satisfactory arrangement as far as children
At a deeper level, said Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at the
University of Kent, the numbers suggest "more and more people are not able
to have close relationships. People who are not married feel they resonate
with the times," he told The Times.
In Canada, the institution of marriage also continues to erode. Last year,
Statistics Canada revealed that for the first time ever, a majority of
Canadians aged 15 years and older (51.5 per cent) reported being single -
never married, divorced, separated or widowed. Twenty years earlier, that
figure had stood at 38.6 per cent.