Daily Mail

Lockdown really is a passion-killer

Birth rate plunges – and divorces soar – amid pandemic

- By Steve Doughty Social Affairs Correspond­ent

IT was predicted that forcing couples to spend all their time at home together during lockdown would, naturally, spark a baby boom.

But Covid has had quite the opposite effect, it seems. In a double whammy for passion, the birth rate has fallen to a record low... while the number of divorces has soared.

Far from promoting a baby boom as Britons worked from home and put socialisin­g on hold, the first lockdown in spring last year appears to have depressed our sex lives and couples’ interest in starting families.

Figures from the office for national statistics (ons) reveal that the number of babies born nine months later, in January this year, was 10 per cent lower than a year earlier.

However, the birth rate did pick up again at the end of March, with the number of babies higher than a year earlier, reflecting a minor baby boom due to the easing of lockdown last summer.

Meanwhile the number of divorces finalised in the first three months of 2021 was two per cent higher than for the same period in 2020 – which was itself a record year for marriage break-ups.

There were 30,171 divorces finalised in england and Wales in the first quarter of the year, figures from the Ministry of Justice show. Many of these are likely to result from break-ups following the lockdown imposed in March 2020 as in most cases the process now takes less than 12 months.

This compares with 30,146 divorces in the first three months of last year – which was more than 25 per cent up on 2019 as a result of courts catching up following long delays to cases caused by a switch to processing cases online.

Family lawyer neil Russell, of seddons, said: ‘not surprising­ly the latest statistics show yet another increase in the number of divorces. Lockdown has put a huge strain on many couples for a number of reasons, not least of all too much time together, time to reflect on relationsh­ips, and life generally.’

Fertility rates in england and Wales during the first lockdown dropped to levels unknown since detailed records were first kept in the 1930s, equivalent to 1.53 children for each woman during her lifetime.

even during periods of low fertility – the depression of the 1930s and the end of the postwar baby boom in the 1970s – the fertility rate did not drop below 1.6.

The ons said there were 615,557 live births in 2020 and 146,574 in the first three months of this year, both 3.9 per cent down on 2019.

Births in the first quarter of 2021 were nearly a fifth lower than in the same period of 2012.

Peter synowiec of the ons said: ‘In the months of december 2020 and January 2021 we saw relatively steep decreases in monthly fertility rates, when compared with the same months a year ago, 8.1 per cent and 10.2 per cent respective­ly. Live births occurring in these months... would have mostly been conceived during the first lockdown in 2020, suggesting there was no baby boom as a result of the restrictio­ns first put in place for Covid-19.’

The ons report said that while births in england and Wales were at their lowest in december 2020 and the first two months of 2021, ‘the fertility rate in March 2021 increased by 1.7 per cent when compared with March 2020.

‘This was the first increase since March 2016. This period relates to live births that were likely to be conceived in June 2020 when lockdown restrictio­ns were beginning to be eased.’

‘Huge strain on many couples’

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