10 Countries With the Highest Divorce Rates

As the festive season approaches and families prepare for annual reunions, the reality of just how nontraditional the modern households have become is thrown into stark relief. Indeed, it's a sad truth that many don't even have the simple luxury of a loving family to drive home to for Christmas. Divorce is an epidemic: People are getting married less and divorced more, and it seems like a trend that won't soon tilt back the other way.

Whatever the reasons, be it financial woes, the fade of love, infidelity, a secularization of the world, or just not being attracted to each other, the old adage seems to ring true: More than half of all marriages end in divorce. This “statistic," however disconcerting, is actually a little skewed: The 50% figure in the U.S. has been calculated by comparing the total number of marriages to the total number of divorces per 1,000 people in a given year. If there were 10 marriages and 5 divorces within 1,000 people sampled, the rate of divorce would be 50%. The question, however, is; of those 5 divorces accounted for, how many divorces took place in the same year that the marriages took place? Basically, the marriage rate only examines the current year, while the divorce rate examines the outcomes of marriages overall.

You can’t take raw results from one year and get really, wide-ranging meaningful results. With that disclaimer made, however, this list is ranked by the standard formula for calculating the “divorce rate” (that unsubstantiated formula above) and elucidates the factors that lead to the following ten countries having the highest divorce rate over marriage rate in the world.

10 Hungary

2010 statistics reported by Eurostat show that Hungary has the third highest divorce to marriage ratio percentage of any country in the world, at 67%, meaning that over two-thirds of all marriages in Hungary end in divorce. The country has a crude divorce rate of 2.5, meaning that there are 2.5 divorces for every 1,000 people in the country, while only having a crude marriage rate of 3.6. Those numbers are quite alarming.

Research shows that many married couples don’t move in together immediately, realize their mistake, and by the time they move in together the spark is gone. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that marriage rates are dropping in Hungary due to courts granting easy divorces by mutual agreement, meaning couples are beginning to take marriage seriously. One in 10 Hungarian men has been divorced, and 12.4% of women have been previously married.

9 Sweden

Scandinavian countries have historically had high divorce rates, but it’s never gotten so bad as it has in Sweden. In 2013 there were over 25,100 divorces in Sweden, which is the highest figure since 1975. In 1974 the law was changed to speed up divorce law, and since then the divorce rate has been rising from between 20,000 to 25,000 each year over the past 40 years. More than 100 couples who tied the knot in 2013 were divorced by the end of the same year.

One has to wonder what factors led to 47% of all marriages in Sweden ending in divorce. Surprisingly, a “moral downfall” was not one of the common reasons. According to researcher Glenn Sandström, the expansion of opportunities to make do without a spouse, the fairer distribution of wealth among social classes, and the development of a welfare state have all contributed to higher divorce rates. He writes that ‘individualistic and secular values have flourished and gained legitimacy... periods where divorce rates rose have coincided almost completely with times of major progress in the welfare state.’

8 Czech Republic

In 1960 the Czech Republic had a divorce rate of 16%. That number rose to 50% in 2006, giving it the highest divorce rate in Europe in 2006, and the country now sits at 66%, which is the fourth highest divorce rate in the world at the moment. Jitya Rychtarikova, a demography professor at Charles University, has stated that the large-scale employment of women in the decades after World War II contributed to the increase in divorce rate, as women did not feel as economically tied to their spouses as before.

The remarriage rate is around 40% for both women and men, which is substantially higher than in other Western countries, where the remarriage rate is much higher for men only. According to Rychtarikova, university graduates are the most conservative when it comes to marriage, while those with primary educations are most likely to marry at a young age and divorce within 10 years.

7 Portugal

Portugal has some disturbing demographics: earlier in 2014, the National Statistics Institute revealed that Portugal has lost almost half a million youths in the span of just a decade. These figures were unveiled at the same time that the divorce rate was revealed to be the second highest in the European Union and the world, at 68%.

Fifty years ago, the beautiful country saw just two divorces per day (granted, there were a lot fewer people and fewer couples) while now that number has risen to 72 divorces per day. In 2010 there were 40,391 weddings, and 26,464 divorces.

6 Ukraine

42% of all marriages end in divorce in Ukraine, and there are many factors that contribute to this fact. Despite Ukrainians being eager to marry, the rate of divorce is on the rise (those factors probably go hand-in-hand). Experts claim that Ukrainians often get married as early as possible, but don’t know how to maintain their marriages. Major factors for divorce include constant financial strain, alcoholism (which is a problem that destroys between 20 to 25% of all marriages), and a loss of trust in the institution of marriage.

50% of divorces occur in families with children, so the children don’t seem to be helping to glue the parents together, while the number of single-parent families increases annually (currently at 20%). The divorce procedure is very simple, so couples know they can easily rupture their coupling, and the cost of child support is incredibly low (the equivalent of about $35-$50/month) so there's a diminished need for two-parent support. From 2010 to 2011, registered marriages increased 16%, from 306,000 to 356,000 couples, while divorces rose 39%, from 38,000 to 62,000.

5 United States

The United States have a 53% divorce rate, which has spiked in recent years. There was a spike in divorces in the 1940s following World War II, just as there was in the 1970s, and again in the mid-2000s. That being said, 2013 and 2014 actually showed a decline in divorce rates, but some experts claim that the rate hasn’t declined, it has just stabilised. Many experts point to the 2008 economic recession as one major factor for divorce.

Other interesting statistics claim that you're more likely to get divorced in the US if you've been married before. The percentages go like this: 41% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages fail, and 73% of third marriages fail. Those numbers are pretty disheartening, though they likely reflect the fact that people who divorce once take marriage less seriously as a rule. The top five reasons for divorce, according to polls: 1) poor communication, 2) finances, 3) abuse, 4) no longer being attracted to one another and 5) infidelity.

4 Russia

The largest country in the world also boasts one of the highest divorce rates in the world at 51%, or a 4.8 crude divorce rate to a 9.2 crude marriage rate. Ten years ago, every third marriage in Russia ended in divorce; today, it is every second. In 2012, 1,213,000 couples tied the knot, while 650,000 couples got divorced. The country held the highest divorce rate in 2012, but has since been overtaken by some other countries.

Sociologists say the main causes of broken marriages are crowded living situations, financial difficulties, and alcoholism. According to Moscow State University’s Professor of Family Sociology, Alexander Sinelnikov, “In a typical Russian apartment, there are more people than rooms.” Citizens have a different measure, however. According to a poll from the same university, only 3% of people stated cramped housing conditions as a determining factor for divorce, while 24% stated infidelity, followed by poverty at 21%, and the inability to compromise at 19%.

3 Belgium

Belgium has the overall highest divorce to marriage ratio in the world, at 71%. One of the main reasons that number is so high is due to a social security system that benefits singles. Divorce rates were just 9.2% in 1970, while they were an astonishing 75.7% in 2009. That’s a 66.5% spike in just 44 years.

Many women are highly educated in Belgium, and many of them take a less traditional view of married life than women of other countries. There is no social stigma with divorce (which makes sense since it’s so common). Also, in the past, one party in the divorce had to be blamed (or caught in the act of cheating), which created an unaccepted, despised culture in failed marriages. Nowadays, it is easier, and mutual agreement divorces are much more common.

2 Belarus

The third Eastern European country on this list, Belarus has the second highest divorce rate in the world, at 68%. 4.63 out of every 1,000 people in the country has divorced. According to some experts, those figures can be blamed on an increased secularization, and poverty. Magda Kaczmarek, a senior staff member of Aid to the Church in Need, stated, “For 70 years efforts had been made to completely eradicate any belief in God...Churches were turned into warehouses or sports arenas, and priests were sent to Gulags in Siberia or murdered.”

Among Belarusians, 40% are irreligious. Kaczmarek noted that, “While the state does welcome Church’s social commitment, there is no state funding made available [for any initiatives]...and the Church is largely dependent on outside help.” To make matters worse, Belarus has one of the highest abortion rates in the world as well.

1 Maldives

The small island nation, officially known as the Republic of the Maldives, may only have a population of 395,000, but they have more divorces per capita than anywhere else, and by a large margin. While Belarus comes in at second with 4.63 divorces per 1,000 people, the Maldives have an astonishing 10.97 divorces per 1,000 people.

The republic has had the highest rates of divorce for many decades. In his 2012 book, Reconsidering Talaq: Marriage, Divorce and Sharia Reform in the Republic of the Maldives, Anthony Marcus hypothesized that the Maldives have such a high rate of divorce because of, “A combination of liberal Islamic rule about divorce and the relatively loose marital bonds that have been identified as common in non-sedentary peoples without a history of fully developed agrarian property and kinship relations."

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