Friday, June 29, 2007

End of civilisation?

I love the Office of National Statistics. When all around are losing their heads and writing beefed-up stories about Paris Hilton's jail release - which is great fun, but hardly earth-shattering - good old ONS quietly releases accurate and groundbreaking figures that always make me stop and think, professionally and personally.

Today was a particularly good day for exposing significant social trends: apparently the annual number of marriages is at an all-time low. Which might make the more conservative amongst us panic - surely this means the breakdown of civilisation as we know it.

Well, not according to my postbag - where letter after letter tells me that people are marrying less because they are taking the institution much more seriously. When I left school 35 years ago, I was one of the few who weren't engaged or at least pressuring their boyfriends to propose... now, according to ONS, teenage marriages are absolutely the exception.

Yes, the divorce rate is high. Yes, we see relationship breakups at every turn. But I do believe that as a society we are more informed, more responsible, more thoughtful than ever before. If we fail to marry, it's because we realise just what a terrifyingly serious commitment marriage is.