London, June 27 : Husbands and wives make up less than half of Britain's adult population for the first time, newly released statistics suggest.
The forces behind such a situation are rising divorce rates and the increasing trend of cohabiting.
Due to such forces, most people above the age of 16 are now single, divorced or widowed, the report by the Office for National Statistics indicates.
The data for 2005, the most recent year available, show that the number of married people in the adult population of England and Wales dropped to 50.3 per cent.
With the number of married couples following a steady downward path since 1997, the proportion of married couples would have dipped below half in 2006.
Although they accounted for 56 per cent of the population in 1995, their number has dropped by between 100,000 and 150,000 each year.
"The trends in marriage and divorce suggest that a continued decline will be observed in the proportion of the population that is married," the Telegraph quoted the ONS report, as stating.
"However, this is in part due to marriage occurring at later ages. The latest projections of the population by marital status suggest that although the proportion of married people in the population will fall, still a substantial proportion of people will marry eventually," the report added.
The new figures show that in 2005 there were 43,180,800 over-16s, of whom 21,683,100 were married.
There were 14,236,900 single people, including cohabitees, just under 4 million divorcees and 3.3 million widows and widowers.
The ONS report said: "The number of people available to marry has been increasing, but the number choosing to marry has been declining."