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There is an old saying among those who specialize in statistical data, and it goes like this – "Statistics are for liars and damn liars."  The famous Missourian, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) said it even better when he opined "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.  It's what you know for sure that just ain't so!"

A perfect example can be found in an article entitled, "Gray Divorce:  Why Are More Seniors Separating?" by a psychotherapist by the name of Dr. Robi Ludwig.  It was, we believe, a misguided article that posited, "Seniors are getting divorced at an increasingly alarming rate."  The problem is, what she stated "for sure," "just ain't so!"  

Similar erroneous conclusions based on the same data appeared in FOX Business, The New York Times,  and other venues. We are always amazed at the way writers will distort statistical data, often to support their own biased point of view!

We know from crunching the numbers that the divorce rate for older Americans (those over 60) is currently VERY LOW compared to the general population!   Our research has determined that divorce rate for first-time marriages is actually between 35% and 40%.  This means more than 60% of first-time marriages are successful.  And the percentage of success among older Americans is even higher!

More importantly, 94% of women who get divorced get divorced before the age of 40. That means that a woman's chances of getting divorced after the age of 40 are only about 6%, a very low number indeed!  

The truth of the matter is that the national per capita divorce rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1981.  The fact that the per capita divorce rate has declined should be cause for celebration!  And if you are 40 or older, here are some statistics that are also a reason to celebrate:

1.  81% of women who get divorced get divorced before the age of 30.  Two-thirds of those get divorced before age 25.

2.  73% of men who get divorced get divorced before the age of 30.  Half of those get divorced before the age of 25.

3.  94% of women who get divorced get divorced before the age of 40.

4.  90% of men who get divorced get divorced before the age of 40.

5.  Depending whether you are male or female, only 6-10% of you will get divorced after the age of 39."

6.  The percentage of people getting divorced as "Senior's" – those getting divorced when they are 60+ years of age – is probably less than 2% by any reliable estimate based on the known data.  

The fact is people get divorced in their 20's and 30's in overwhelming numbers, not in their 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's!  

So, why would someone posit the distorted notion of an "alarming" increase in the divorce rate among "graying Americans" given these facts?  As Mark Twain might say, such a notion "Just ain't so."

Here is the truth.  Let's do simple math.  If you multiply 2 times 2 you get four – a small number.  If you multiple 20 times 20 you get 400.  The lesson here is this – the smaller the numbers you multiply the smaller the effect – the smaller the impact of the resulting number.  The larger the numbers you multiply, the larger the numbers you get.  And remember the line from the old song that goes, "Nothin' times nothin' is nothin'!

Our point here is this – a "doubling" of the divorce rate among senior's results in an extremely small number – a relatively insignificant number.  If less than 2% of seniors get divorced then a doubling of the divorce rate among this group from 1% to 2% is an insignificant number compared to other age groups.

If someone concludes that the divorce rate among seniors is "alarming" they are either lying to you or misrepresenting the data they are looking at.  Those who write about the "alarming" increase in the divorce rate of "seniors" are guilty of that famous Shakespearean phrase, "Much ado about nothing."  

By Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz

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