Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Average Marriage

The newsreader a few days ago started an article with the statement "The average length of a marriage these days is 7 years.".   What?  That didn't sound like a very accurate statement to me.  So I decided to see where the information came from.  The obvious starting point was to ask Google if it was true.  It seems that it is a possible half-truth.  The statement appears to relate to US statistics.  I can find none for New Zealand (which does not, of course, mean that they are not available).  Apparently some research in the US and an examination of US statistics shows:
However as one might imagine that is not the whole story.  In fact these statistics relate only to marriages that end in divorce.    Statistics for marriages ending in the death of one or other partner do not seem to be readily available.

Which all goes to show that you should never take at face value what you hear in the news media.


  1. I can't attribute the following quotation.
    "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."

  2. (re Adrian's quote) I associate that quote with Mark Twain, but when I went to check I found a whole long essay going on and on discussing who really said it first, because it probably wasn't even who Twain thought he got it from either...

  3. Seems the Swedish divorce statistics are made up much the same way, ie related to couples who actually get divorced, not the ones that stay together. About twice as many enter marriage each year as the number who get divorced though. Figures always make my head spin, I'm never sure what to make of them!

    Making my own statistics from what I see among people I actually know, I can only say that more couples than I had expected seem to be breaking up after their kids moved away from home. Lately if I run into anyone I haven't seen for a while I'm almost afraid to ask the usual polite questions about family.

  4. Statistics about my own family, our friends and myself show that almost all my parents' friends who got more or less married at the same time (in the 1960s) are still together, except for one whose husband committed suicide. I know of at least three such marriages that, more than once, were on the brink of breaking up (and the ladies had more than enough reason to give their husbands the boot) but decided to stay together.
    In my generation, I know only one divorcee (except for myself), but a lot of the couples I know are not married.
    My personal statistics say: 1st marriage 11 years, ended in divorce; 2nd one 4 1/2 years, ended in husband's death.
    So, the average length of my marriages was somewhere around 7,5 years, which fits the statement you cited.

  5. Hmmmm...

    Rather bleak statistics, I suppose, depending upon your perspective.

    I like Adrian's quoted comment. ;^)

    I mentioned my "20 some years" yesterday and Lyndsey reminded me that is was 22. Yes, we were definitely counting. Years. Yikes. Should have been 22 minutes -- after I met the former mister.

    Live and Learn. And Learn. And Learn. And Learn.


    My minutes and years are much happier now and I hope that the next generation can bash the statistics all to pieces. With joy and many years of happiness.


  6. Hidden information includes the shape of the graph. For example, an average marriage length of 7 could consist of seven marriages that each ended after one year plus three marriages that each ended after 21 years.

    As the statistician with his head in the oven and his feet in the oven said "On average, I feel fine!"