The number of men and women marrying each other has fallen to its lowest level on record, official statistics show.

A total of 235,910 such marriages were registered in England and Wales in 2017- a decrease of 2.8% compared with 2016.

The number has fallen by 45% since 1972, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures also show less than a quarter (22%) of all marriages in 2017 were religious ceremonies – the lowest percentage on record.

Harry Benson, Research Director of the Marriage Foundation, said “the hidden damage to our social fabric caused by our indifference to marriage – and therefore commitment and stability – will continue long after we are free of coronavirus”.

He added: “Family is where we find our security. Our individual experiences of these long weeks of covid lockdown will almost certainly depend on how we feel about family life at home. Those of us that thrive will do so from stable, secure homes. Those of us that struggle will do so because we live with uncertainty, ambiguity and insecurity. The long term decline of marriage profoundly matters because marriage is especially strongly associated with the commitment, clarity, security and stability that all of us need now more than ever”.