Category Archives: Facts & Stats

The science behind singledom

The media seems fascinated by mathematical formulas dreamt up by PR agencies and scientists to apparently explain such mysteries as happiness and how old you are likely to live for. The latest, from maths genius Peter Backus, shows that there is a one in 285,000 chance of you meeting your perfect partner. Not exactly high!

Backus found that out of the 30 million women in the UK, only 26 would be suitable girlfriends for him, taking into account the number of single women aged 24 to 34 living in London and the percentage of women likely to find him attractive. Though how he worked out the latter is anyone’s guess.

The news isn’t exactly positive for singletons but may reassure them that finding someone suitable is a numbers game. I’m not sure I believe any of it, there are far too many couples around for this to have any truth! But you do often have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet ‘The One’…..


The boomerang generation

Apparently the recession has forced half a million adults between the ages of 35 and 44 to return to live with parents in 2009 due to debt, unemployment, property prices and rising numbers of relationships breaking up.

The bank Abbey, which carried out the research, says there are also around 440,000 between the ages of 25 to 34 who have been forced to return home.

The findings aren’t that surprising – being made redundant can have a huge knock-on effect on a person’s self-esteem and subsequently cause relationship problems. But living with your parents when single must make dating more difficult.

Most women look for financial stability in a potential partner, and men tend to look for independence. A first date admitting that they have had to move home due to money problems and/ or redundancy would be a big cross in many people’s eyes, especially those in their mid to late thirties who are most likely looking for a long-term relationship.

Let’s hope the economy bounces back in 2010 or there will be even more relationship break-ups – those of parents whose money runs out after their children move back home!

The 11 year itch

A new book claims that marriage should be viewed as an economic partnership which couples should expect to stop working when the emotional and economic benefits begin to wane. ‘Changing Relationships’ by Malcolm Brynin argues that people only stay together when it is to their individual advantage. It follows figures from the Office for National Statistics revealing that the number of marriages in the UK in 2007 fell 2.6% from the previous year, to 270,000. The 2007 data shows that the average length of marriages which ended in divorce was 11.5 years.

Brynin and other researchers in this area, including Michael Buchanan, the twice-divorced (!) author of a new book called ‘The Marriage Delusion’ argue that the natural duration of a marriage is around 11 years. Isn’t this all a bit mercenary? What happened to promising to stick with each other ’till death do us part’?!

The rapid growth of the single population

We are fast becoming a nation of singles. According to demographic studies, there will be 16 million singles in the UK by 2010, compared with 14 million in 2007. And we have a housing shortage in London now! Property is set to keep growing in value, despite the current economic meltdown, as the number of people living by themselves soars.

But study after study shows that being in a long-term, happy relationship is beneficial in so many ways – it increases your life expectancy, reduces the chance of heart disease, stress, depression and numerous other health problems. The government should be doing more to promote marriage and the family. It would benefit society and the economy hugely, as well as make housing more affordable!

Back to basics

A government sponsored report from the Economic and Social Research Council released this week suggests that  although there are tentative signs of recovery in the economy, unemployment levels are likely to continue rising. It goes on to suggest that this will lead to a record number of divorces over the next two years.

However, I was surprised to learn that the UK divorce rate is currently at its lowest since 1981. And there is growing evidence that as the recession bites, with people losing their jobs, their homes and having to give up extravagant lifestyles, people are getting “back to basics” and investing more in personal relationships and in building a home.

A survey by NOISE (New Outlooks in Science & Engineering) last year found that just 4% of teenage girls interviewed want to be engineers in future (no huge surprise there!) but 12% dream of being housewives. There seems to be a resurgence of popularity in the 1950’s way of life, with women learning how to bake the perfect apple pie from Nigella Lawson and how to clean and tidy our homes properly from Anthea Turner and those two ‘How Clean is Your House?’ women on TV.

My generation of women (I’m in my early 30s) were sold the “having it all” idea – going to university, enjoying a successful career, making decent amounts of money, and having a happy marriage and children to boot. But we’ve found out that in reality, opportunities aren’t always perfect – IVF is at its highest rate ever, and lots of women in their late thirties/ early forties are finding out, after much expense and heartbreak, that they aren’t able to have it all.

Might we see an increase in marriage levels and a decline in divorce as people get nostalgic for all things domestic and put a greater emphasis on building a strong base at home rather than trying to be Miss Career Woman with the latest designer handbag?

According to the Office of National Statistics, marriage rates are at their lowest since records began in 1862. The Labour government has stripped away many of the tax benefits of marriage and the average age at which people marry for the first time has risen – 30 for women, 32 for men. Perhaps by promoting marriage and “back to basics” (with or without reports of Tory MPs sh*gging their secretaries), the Conservatives will help turn this around.

The big freeze

Like many 30-something women I was under the impression that wonderful recent scientific advances meant that egg freezing was now a realistic option for women who are looking to buy time on their biological clock due to wanting to focus on their career or not having met the right man yet. So I was alarmed to read in the current issue of Marie Claire that since the first baby was born from a frozen egg in the UK in 2002, there have been only FOUR babies born from frozen eggs, despite around 400 being defrosted.

It made me think of an article I read in July written by a 41-year old woman who deeply regretted her decision to prioritise a career in advertising over starting a family when she was younger and, having been told she will never be able to conceive as her fertility is now so low, urges 30-something women to freeze their eggs –

Apparently the medical procedures used in egg freezing have many risks and debilitating side effects and once eggs are thawed the chances of a baby being born are only around SIX out of every 100. Plus the whole process costs around £5000, plus £150 a year to store the eggs, and then another £2000 per cycle for IVF treatment when you decide you want to use them. So you’re looking at at least £7000 for a 6% chance of it being successful.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is now, thankfully, warning women that fertility rapidly declines after the age of 35. But the harsh fact is that a lot of 30-something women are going to leave it too late to have children and then find out that there is no magical fertility insurance plan.

Londoners most likely to want to get married

London’s Evening Standard newspaper recently cited independent research which found that around 4 million single people in the capital are currently looking for a relationship. A separate survey published earlier this year found that seven out of ten Londoners under the age of fifty said they had dated within the previous 12 months– underlining just how few people are in long-term relationships. Yet, dating website’s LoveGeist Report 2009, an annual nationwide survey into love and dating, found that out of all the UK population, Londoners are the most likely to want to get married. Is that we’re all working such long hours that we don’t have time to meet people, or is that the decline in traditional face-to-face social networks, such as the church, sporting and other membership groups, has meant that it is getting increasing harder to meet people in ‘real life’ outside our personal networks?