Divorces Among Senior Citizens on the Rise

  • By Kim Dong-seop

    June 06, 2019 08:19

    Divorces among senior citizens are surging as the life expectancy of Koreans increases. Analysis of data from Statistics Korea shows that divorces of couples where the husband is over 70 surged 6.6 times from 570 in 2000 to 3,777 in 2018.

    The number of couples who divorced even after the age of 90 stood at 18 last year. They cited a plethora of reasons, from problems in relationships with family members, extramarital affairs, physical or psychological abuse and money problems.

    One 76-year-old who ended her 56-year marriage to her 90-year-old husband in 2016 said her husband habitually cheated on her and abused her physically.

    If elderly people have clear reasons for divorce, they are hard to dissuade, according to experts. Elderly men are often divorced by their wives over family problems. Another factor contributing to the surge is the increasing availability of jobs for elderly women, and new laws that grant divorced wives a share of their husbands' assets and even pensions.

    Couples over 70 who divorced last year were married an average of 34.1 years, and the average age difference between spouses was 6.9 years. One out of 10 divorces were among couples who had been married for more than 50 years.

    Lee Yoon-kyung at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said, "When they get divorced in the twilight years, men often find it difficult to look after themselves without a wife, but they're left alone and eventually die alone."

    Divorce among senior citizens still accounts for only 3.5 percent of total divorces, but what is alarming is how fast it is growing compared to Japan for example.

    The divorce rate among couples over 70 was similar in both countries until the late 1990s, but in 2017 it stood at just 0.35 per 100,000 population in Japan, whereas in Korea it was 1.68 people.

    Yet for many it is a welcome fresh start. According to Statistics Korea, the number of men over 70 who married again rose 3.3 times from 442 in 2000 to 1,450 last year.

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