I did some digging around a little while ago using Google's rather useful Trends tool, which gives an indication of what people are talking about and how society is changing. It shows things like interest in Justin Bieber or Barack Obama over time, but I think it can also show attitudes towards marriage, love and engagements.
The stats show (from my reading) that British men are becoming increasingly interested in marriage, bucking a global trend of apathy towards proposing.
Here's my working:
The data shows that British interest in the search term 'engagement rings' on Google doubled over the space of a decade (2004 - 2015). That's a pretty significant increase (and it takes into account general increases in people using the internet in case you are wondering). The all-time peak was at the end of 2015, as people rushed to buy engagement rings for new year proposals. I expect the peak will be beaten in December 2016, though that's just a guess based on previous data.
Secondly, worldwide interest in the same Google search term ('engagement rings') dropped considerably over the same period. I calculated it as being a decline of about a quarter.
Thirdly, the increase in interest in the UK started around 2009, just at the time of the credit crunch and the financial recession.
Surely you would think that rising unemployment would coincide with less people getting married and proposing? That was the global trend, but for some reason the UK is different.
So the big question is why?
Honestly, I've gone around the houses on this one. I remember a training course I once went on with a journalist which was saying how easy it is to use statistics to back up your own beliefs or create your own story. The example given was that there were some new stats coming out about levels of alcohol sales during the global recession.
The journalist admitted that he could link an increase or a decrease to the recession. He could argue that sales went up because everyone was drowning their sorrows, or they went down because no-one had any money to spend on beer.
The reality is that sales might not actually be linked to the recession and there might be some other reason for sales going up or down.
One conclusion that I've come to is that it might be something to do with British shoppers becoming more frugal. As the recession started, there was a big increase in people searching for 'cheap engagement rings'. Could it be that people were still falling in love, and wanting to commit to marriage, but they could no longer afford to spend £2000 on a diamond ring in the high street and were instead looking to get engaged on a budget of £200 with a ring they bought online?
I'd say that theory is certainly possible, but why would it just be British men that followed that pattern during a global recession?
Honestly, I'm still mulling this one over. If you've got any thoughts, get in touch. In the meantime, if you are one of the increasing number of British men looking for cheap engagement rings, I'll point you towards our guide to retailers!