Alaska is well known for its wildlife, natural beauty, and active lifestyle, but it’s also known for having a high divorce rate. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2018, Alaska has the fourth-highest divorce rate in the country, at 12.5 per 1,000 married people.
It begs the question: What factors lead to Alaska’s high divorce rate, and which Alaskan localities have the highest divorce rates? This article lists the top five cities in the country for divorce rates and explores possible causes of Alaska’s high divorce rate.
Factors Associated with Alaska’s High Divorce Rate
Although there isn’t a one theory that fully explains Alaska’s high divorce rate, a number of professionals and researchers have put forth some reasonable theories, such as:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Some people’s mood and mental health may be affected by Alaska’s long and gloomy winters. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is more common in the winter and can include low energy, sorrow, irritability, and decreased interest in activities. This disorder may have an impact on the quality of relationships, increasing the likelihood of marital discontent and disputes.
- Alaska has a substantial military population, consisting of over 23,000 active-duty members and 4,700 reservists. Marriages can be strained by military service, especially if one partner is deployed or relocated frequently. According to a RAND Corporation study, challenges like mental stress, financial hardships, adjustment concerns, and long-distance communication lead to a greater divorce rate in military couples.
- Economic Instability: Because of its reliance on the extraction of oil and gas, Alaska’s economy is very sensitive to changes in the worldwide market and environmental restrictions. In addition, the cost of living in the state is higher than the national average when it comes to housing, food, and utilities. Couples that experience financial stress and uncertainty due to unstable economies are more likely to experience marital issues and divorce.
- Cultural Diversity: Alaska is a varied state that welcomes residents from a wide range of racial, ethnic, and religious origins. Alaska’s diverse population of immigrants and refugees, including the largest number of Native Americans in the nation (15.6%), contributes to the state’s rich social fabric but also presents difficulties for intercultural marriages. Higher divorce rates may be caused by prejudice, familial expectations, cultural differences, and language problems.
Alaska’s Top 5 Cities with Highest Divorce Rates
Based on data from the 2018 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the following five Alaskan cities have the highest divorce rates, measured as the proportion of single people who are divorced and have not remarried:
- Kodiak: 18.6%
- Fairbanks: 16.6%
- Kenai: 16.4%
- Wasilla: 15.9%
- 15.1% in Anchorage
These cities are similar in ways that could help to explain why their divorce rates are higher:
Large Military Population: As previously noted, important military bases are located in Kodiak, Fairbanks, Kenai, and Anchorage, which increases the risk of divorce.
High Cost of Living: Kodiak is the most costly city in Alaska, while these others rank among the most expensive places to live. High living expenses can lead to financial hardship and discontent, especially for couples who have dependents.
Low Population Density: Due to their relative isolation and sparse population, these cities have little access to services and social assistance, such as education, entertainment, treatment, and counseling. Feelings of loneliness may worsen in areas with low population density, particularly in the winter.
A number of variables, including the military presence, the state’s unstable economy, the state’s diverse population, and seasonal affective disorder, have contributed to Alaska’s high divorce rate.
The cities with the highest divorce rates in Alaska—Kodiak, Fairbanks, Kenai, Wasilla, and Anchorage—share traits that increase the likelihood of divorce. Divorce is not inevitable, though, and couples can overcome obstacles by getting professional help.