43 Percent of First Marriages Break Up Within 15 Years

For Release: Thursday, May 24, 2001

Contact: NCHS Press Office, (301) 458-4800

E-mail: paoquery@cdc.gov

First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage: United States. Advance Data 323. 19 pp. (PHS) 2001-1250. [PDF – 169 KB]

New data on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States show that 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, “First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage: United States,” also shows that one in three first marriages end within 10 years and one in five end within 5 years. The findings are based on data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, a study of 10,847 women 15-44 years of age.

“Separation and divorce can have adverse effects on the health and well-being of children and adults,” said CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan. “Past research has shown that divorce is associated with higher rates of mortality, more health problems, and more risky behaviors such as increased alcohol use.”

The study also showed that:

  • Duration of marriage is linked to a woman’s age at first marriage; the older a woman is at first marriage, the longer that marriage is likely to last. For example, 59 percent of marriages to brides under 18 end in separation or divorce within 15 years, compared with 36 percent of those married at age 20 or over.
  • About 97 percent of separated non-Hispanic white women are divorced within 5 years of separation, compared with 77 percent of separated Hispanic women and only 67 percent of non-Hispanic black women.
  • Younger women who divorce are more likely to remarry: 81 percent of those divorced before age 25 remarry within 10 years, compared with 68 percent of those divorced at age 25 or over.
  • Non-Hispanic black women are less likely than other women to remain in a first marriage, to make the transition from separation to divorce, to remarry, and to remain in a remarriage.

“These data offer an important glimpse into the social fabric of this country,” said Dr. Edward Sondik, director of CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, which conducted the study. “The implications of divorce cut across a number of societal issues — socioeconomics, health, and the welfare of our children.”

The report can be downloaded from the CDC Web site.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.