Photo: Flickr via breebailey
It’s no secret that half of new American marriages are doomed to fail, but it’s the growing rate of married boomers who are calling it quits that has researchers worried. One in 10 baby boomers were divorced in the early 1990s, a rate that has more than doubled since then, according to a 2012 study by the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University.
At the time, researchers theorized that the higher rate of divorce may have to do with the fact that boomers are simply more likely to have had multiple marriages (research has shown adults in their second and third marriages have a 150 per cent greater chance of splitting up than first-timers).
Along with higher divorce rates, there are more boomers today who have never married than ever before.
Still, why all the fuss?
As much as Hollywood has romanticized the “Eat, Pray, Love” approach to the midlife crisis, it turns out being single isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Per the study:
“The absence of a spouse makes unmarried Boomers, especially men, vulnerable because they are less likely to have access to a reliable nearby form of social support, including children. Moreover, unmarried Boomers are more likely to need social support, as we find that they are twice as likely as married Boomers to be disabled. These health and social support deficits among unmarried Boomers could place a heavy burden on society in the near future. Institutional supports will need to accommodate the greater demands for services that we would anticipate from unmarried Boomers.”
On top of that, poverty rates are five times higher among unmarried boomers (20 per cent) than married boomers (4 per cent), the study found. And single boomers are three times as likely to rely on government assistance like food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security.
That’s especially worrisome for unmarried older women. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, widowed and divorced women rely on Social Security for 50 per cent of their income after age 65. If never married, women wouldn’t be able to claim the same spousal and widow benefits to supplement their income in old age.
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