The number of older people who are getting divorced is on the rise, official figures show.

The so-called “silver splitters” are married for around three decades before separating, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

In 2011, the average length of marriage for men aged 60 and over who got divorced was 27.4 years, figures show. Women over 60 who divorced during the same year had been married for an average of 31.9 years.

While the overall number of divorces has been falling since the mid-1990s, the number of over-60s who are filing for divorce has increased, the ONS said.

The number of men aged 60 and over who were granted divorces hit 9,500 in 2011 – a 73% rise from 1991. Officials noted a similar trend in the number of older women – 5,800 women over 60 divorced in 2011, a sharp rise from 3,200 in 1991.

The gender gap could be explained by the fact that, on average, husbands tend to be older than their wives, the ONS said.

The overall number of silver separators is at its second highest level on record – the highest was in 1972 after the Divorce Reform Act came into effect, making it easier for couples to separate.

Officials say the rise is partly due to the increase in the number of over-60s who are living in England and Wales.

Other factors could include a loss of stigma around divorce and higher employment rates among women – who have become more financially independent since the 1970s, the ONS said.

In 1993 there were a record number of divorces in England and Wales, with 165,000 couples splitting up. This figure fell to 118,000 in 2011 – the latest year for which divorce figures are available.

If you are considering a divorce or need help with a family matter, contact the Family Department on 0161 833 0044 or email