• The Associated Press


Japan’s divorce rate hit a new record high last year, reflecting an increasing number of middle-aged and older couples who are parting ways.

The number of divorces rose for the 12th consecutive year in 2002, according to recently released government statistics that provided the latest confirmation that the stigma long associated with breaking up is fading in this country.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, a record 289,836 couples divorced last year, up 1.4 percent from the previous all-time high of 285,911 in 2001.

That amounted to 2.3 divorces for every 1,000 people in Japan — also a record and more than double the rate of 1.07 in 1975.

Behind the rise is an increasing number of couples who are parting ways after having been married for 20 years or more.

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