According to a new research study conducted by sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin, the divorce rate of people over fifty years old is increasing. The paper, which cites the research for this conclusion, has been dubbed "The Gray Divorce Revolution." Interestingly between 1990 and 2009, the overall divorce rate throughout the United States has declined while the divorce rate of those over fifty has risen. Professor Brown states that in 1990, only one in ten divorces were between people over the age fifty. In 2009, the number swelled, and now one in four people who get divorced are age fifty or older.
Brown and her colleagues have speculated the various causes for this drastic change in statistics. One possible reason behind this change is the different version of empty-nest syndrome these gray divorcés experience. One of the study's participants, Dawn, states that during her marriage her and her husband pushed past all of their issues for the sake of the children. After the children all graduated from high school, Dawn says that her and her husband of two decades had grown apart and became involved in two separate lives. After being unable to communicate or reconnect, Dawn filed for divorce at the age of fifty-one.
Not unlike Dawn, a national survey conducted by AARP found that women are more often initiating the divorce proceedings. In the older age group, women report pursuing divorce 66% of the time. We previously blogged about the various reasons young couples tend to call it quits. However, the reasons for divorce amongst the older demographic appear to be vastly different. One of the leading causes of divorce among the younger generation is infidelity. Interestingly, this reason is not often cited as the compelling force behind the gray divorces. Although infidelity is not leading to these divorces, it still does occur in the relationships that are ending for those in their fifties.
Another factor that has been explored is the life expectancy of the gray divorcé. Many previous marriages ended in death before or near the time one of the spouses reached the age of fifty. Now, those over fifty are still looking forward to decades more of healthy life. Further, those who married in the 1970's also began to focus on individual happiness as a goal in a fulfilling marriage. Taking that same principal, many spouses who are no longer happy are more willing to get a divorce.