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Marital Status

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The married population increased by 4.9 per cent between 2011 and 2016, growing from 1,708,604 to 1,792,151 which was faster than the overall population growth of 3.8 per cent. Both first and second marriages increased. For the first time in Census 2016, a category for registered same-sex civil partnership was included on the census form. There were 4,226 persons (2,526 males and 1,700 females) who indicated that they were in a registered same-sex civil partnership.

Figure 1.1 shows the breakdown of the population aged 15 years and over in each marital status category at the last five censuses. Since 1996 the proportion of the population aged 15 years and over who were divorced has grown substantially from 0.4 per cent (9,787 people) to 2.8 per cent (103,895). There was a corresponding increase in the numbers who were re-married, from 15,982 in 1996 to 61,729 in 2016.

The share of the population aged 15 and over who were single increased from 41.1 per cent in 1996 to 43.1 per cent in 2006, but has fallen back to 41.1 per cent (1,544,862 people) in 2016.

The proportion who were widowed fell from 5.3 per cent in 2011 to 5.2 per cent in 2016, however the actual number of widowed persons increased from 191,059 to 196,227.

Marital Status19962002200620112016
First marriage (incl. same-sex civil partnership)13406311423884152352716559061730422
Separated (including deserted)7800598779107263116194118178
Table 1.1 Population by marital status, 1996 - 2016

Marital status by age and sex

The age profile of the population aged 15 and over varies widely based on marital status. Figure 1.2 shows these different breakdowns in a population pyramid format. The number of single persons begins to drop quickly after the age of 30. By age 33 women were more likely to be married than single, while for men this happened at age 35. The peak age for persons separated or divorced was 53 years in 2016 compared with 48 in 2011. Women were more likely to be widowed than married by age 79 compared with age 76 in 2011.

The age structure of the population by marital status can be seen by clicking on a marital status below:

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4053

It's a Fact

  • 33 - The age at which women were more likely to be married than single
  • 35 - The age at which men were more likely to be married than single
  • 53 - The peak age for separation and divorce
  • 32,225 - more separated and divorced women than men
  • 79 - The age at which women were more likely to be widowed than married

Single people by county

The highest proportions of single people, aged 15 years or over, were in the cities. Galway had the highest at 53.3 per cent, followed by Dublin (53.2 per cent) and Cork (51.9 per cent). The counties with the lowest proportion of single people were Leitrim (35.8 per cent), Roscommon (36 per cent) and Meath (36.3 per cent). However these percentages depend heavily on the underlying age structure of each county. Younger counties tend to have more single people, while older counties have more married and widowed people. Map 1.1 below shows the percentage of the population of each county who were single.

Confining the analysis to those in their forties mitigates these effects as seen in Map 1.2 below which shows a slightly different picture. While the cities still top the board with high proportions of singles (all the cities have over 36 per cent single), more rural counties such as Sligo (26.5 per cent), Kerry (25.1 per cent) and Mayo (24.7 per cent) also have high rates of single people. Also the counties with the lowest percentages of single people are also among those with the youngest overall age such as Meath (18.4 per cent), Kildare (19.7 per cent) and Monaghan (20.5 per cent).

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4019

Single people by census town

Map 1.3 below shows the proportion of single persons aged 15 and over by settlement in 2016. Towns with a population of 10,000 or more had high rates of single people, in particular Maynooth and Sligo (both with large cohorts of students) had an excess of 50 per cent of their population who were single. Among the largest towns Malahide and Greystones had the lowest proportions of single people at 32.7 per cent and 33.3 per cent respectively. Of the small and medium sized towns (population 1,500 - 10,000) Mountrath, Fethard and Lifford were the top three towns with the highest percentage of single people (46 - 48%). While Rosslare, Portmarnock and Bearna had the lowest proportion of single people in small and medium sized towns.

In all the large towns men were more likely to be single than women. In Portlaoise the difference was highest with 3,915 (46%) single males out of 8,512 males aged 15 or over compared with 3,151 (39.8%) single females out of 7,916. There were similar differences in Clonmel and Athlone. In Balbriggan the proportion of single men (40.7%) and women (40.4%) was broadly similar.

Map 1.3 Single population by Census Settlement, 2016

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It's a Fact

  • 34% - The percentage of the total population who lived in cities
  • 36% - The percentage of single people who lived in cities
  • 37% - The percentage of the total population who lived in rural areas
  • 35% - The percentage of single people who lived in rural areas

Growth in the married population

Married people as a percentage of the total population increased to 47.7 per cent in 2016 up from 47.3 per cent in 2011 and 46.4 per cent in 2006.

This change was not evenly spread across the country. Rural areas experienced a marginal increase from 53.8 per cent married in 2011 to 53.9 per cent in 2016 while urban areas saw a larger increase, from 43.5 per cent to 44.1 per cent. However as can be seen in Figure 1.3 in rural areas married people still make up a relatively larger share of the population.

Area typeTotal Married
Dublin City and suburbs25.422.6
Other Cities (incl. suburbs)9.58.2
Towns 10,000 population and over1615.6
Towns 1,500 - 9,999 population12.111.9
Aggregate rural area3741.7

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4021

It's a Fact

  • 5% - The increase in the married population between 2011 and 2016
  • 54% - The percentage of the rural population who were married
  • 44% - The percentage of the urban population who were married

Marriage by county

Fingal shows the highest percentage change of married people up by 10 per cent from 103,902 in 2011 to 114,249 in 2016 while the total population of Fingal increased by 8 per cent over the same period. The other counties with large increases were in the greater Dublin area and Galway City.

The counties of Tipperary, Offaly and Mayo showed the smallest increases in the numbers married up just over 1 per cent.

Table 1.2 Percentage change in numbers married (top 5 and bottom 5 administrative counties)
CountyMarried Population 2011Married Population 2016Percentage change
Dublin City156,840170,5848.8
Galway City22,47424,3508.3
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown79,74585,7817.6

Map 1.4 shows married people as a percentage of all those aged 15 years and over in each county. Meath (53.3%), Galway County (52.8%) and Cork County (52.0%) had the highest proportions of married people. The cities had the lowest percentages; Dublin and Cork each had less than 37 per cent of their adult population married.

As with the analysis of single people, it is also useful to restrict the analysis to people in their 40s, with a view to minimising age structure effects which influence these percentages. Map 1.5 shows the percentage of 40-49 year olds in each county who were married.

While the lowest percentages are still in the cities, Meath and Kildare were joined by Galway county in the top three counties (72.3%, 71.4% and 71.3% respectively). 

It's a Fact

  • 10% - the increase in the married population in Fingal
  • 53.3% - the proportion of the population aged 15 years and over who were married in Meath
  • 36.2% - the proportion of the population aged 15 years and over who were married in Dublin City

Separation and divorce

The number of separated and divorced people increased by 8.9 per cent between 2011 and 2016 rising from 203,964 to 222,073. The increase of 18,109 persons is less than half the increase in the previous intercensal period when the number of separated or divorced persons increased by 37,167. When broken down further we can see that the number of separated persons increased by 1,984 while the number of those divorced increased by 16,125. There was a decrease of 11,115 separated or divorced persons aged under 50 between 2011 and 2016, while over the age of 50 there was a substantial increase of 29,224 persons. 

There were 94,924 men and 127,149 women separated or divorced in 2016. Figure 1.4 shows the age and sex breakdown of the separated or divorced population for 2011 and 2016. There were nearly 90% more separated or divorced women (7,244) than men (3,830) in the 25-34 age group. The proportionate difference between sexes reduces with age, and for persons aged 65 years and over, there are 4% more women (18,743) than men (18,097) separated or divorced.

15 - 24 years196293
25 - 34 years38307244
35 - 44 years1650125567
45 - 54 years2847641057
55 - 64 years2782434245
65 and over1809718743

In Census 2016, 60.5 per cent of divorced or separated persons were living in childless households, with only a fifth of separated or divorced men living in households with children compared to over 50 per cent of women. The number of persons either divorced or separated living in childless households increased by 11.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016. There were 87,704 separated or divorced persons living in households with children, an increase of 5.1 per cent on 2011. 

No children55.344.7
1 child27.772.3
2 children20.879.2
3 children18.381.7
4 or more18.181.9

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4062

Remarried population

The number of remarried persons increased by 17.1 per cent to 61,729 persons in 2016 up from 52,698 in 2011. This compares to an increase of 27 per cent between the 2006 and 2011 censuses. As can be seen in Figure 1.6 the number of remarried persons aged under 45 decreased in 2016 while the largest increase of 46.9 per cent (4,559) was in the 65 years and over age group.

When broken down by sex it can be seen that there were 34,583 remarried men compared to 27,146 remarried women. However this varies by age group; while there were more remarried women than men between the ages of 25 and 44 years, over the age of 45 the number of remarried men is substantially higher at 29,449 compared to 20,797 women.

15 - 24 years895742
25 - 34 years187420281596
35 - 44 years9951109799845
45 - 54 years126401689218675
55 - 64 years97511302017290
65 years and over7184972214281