According to a study conducted by researchers at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for older Americans – those over 50 years of age – has doubled during the past 20 years or so. The researchers found that just one out of every 10 people who got divorced in 1990 was over the age of 50. By 2011, more than one out of every four people getting a divorce in the United States was over 50 years of age. According to the American Community Survey – conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau – 28 percent of Americans who got divorced in 2011 were 50 years old or above.
The researchers identified a variety of factors that have led to this increase in divorces over 50, commonly referred to as the gray divorce trend. To begin with, life expectancies in the U.S. are now significantly higher than they once were. Once a couple has reached retirement age, they often have many decades left to spend enjoying themselves. If the marriage is no longer productive, it makes sense for both parties to split to enjoy their golden years.
In addition, as women have gained more autonomy – and particularly greater financial independence – they have grown more capable of making a life for themselves without their former partner. Consequently, women over 50 have become more confident about filing for divorce when they are not satisfied in the marriage.
Finally, while those who got divorced used to be faced with a challenging social stigma, it is now a perfectly acceptable and widely used method to avoid decades of unhappiness in an unsuccessful relationship.