Couples who talk to each other have happier relationships.
Couples who talk to each other have happier relationships.

When times are tough, couples break up

By Daily Mail Time of article published Sep 12, 2014

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London - The recession has taken a heavy toll on poorer couples and families, according to a large-scale study of how the downturn affected relationships.

While the marriages and partnerships of the better off mainly survived five years of economic adversity, those who lost their jobs or fell into debt suffered high levels of family break-up, it said.

The Relate counselling group which carried out the inquiry, said: “People who were disadvantaged economically during the recession were considerably more likely to have experienced deterioration in their relationship quality and stability.”

The study, based on the lives of 20 000 people who take part in the academically-run Understanding Society long-term survey, split couples into groups, ranging from those who thrived in the years after the banking collapse in 2008 to those who were forced out of work and into benefit dependency.

It said those who suffered worst in the recession were eight times as likely to see their relationships break up than those who did well.

The report added: “For those who remained in relationships, relationship quality was worse for those who were most affected by the recession. People whose recession experiences had been more severe reported arguing more often, considering ending their relationships more frequently and feeling less happy in their relationships.”

However the Relate findings are open to challenge from researchers who believe the recession has tended to cement rather than break many relationships.

In particular, the study acknowledged that numbers of divorces went down rather than up during the downturn years.

The Office for National Statistics has suggested that one reason for this may be “an increase in family solidarity during difficult times.”

The report, Relationships, Recession and Recovery, said: “On the face of it, one might expect divorce rates to have increased markedly, yet while the recession appeared to halt the long-term decline, the divorce rate was at its lowest when unemployment was highest.”

It added: “Divorce rates are lowest when the economy is under-performing, due to the costs of separation.

“This is likely to mean that the full impact of the recession on relationships will not be felt for some time after economic conditions have improved.”

Relate’s families were broken down into six groups. Researchers labelled those who did best “forging ahead” and “doing well”; the middle groups were “getting by” and “overworked and underpaid”; and those who did worst “bearing the brunt” and “distressed and disengaged”.

When compared with the “forging ahead” group, where only two per cent of people saw their relationship break down in the two years covered by the study, the “overworked and underpaid” group was three times as likely to have experienced relationship breakdown, the “bearing the brunt” group was four times as likely and the “distressed and disengaged” group was eight times as likely, the report said.

However the report also acknowledged that couples in the most successful group were much more likely to be married than those suffering badly from the recession. Married couples are much less likely to break apart than cohabitees.

The study said that numbers of domestic abuse incidents recorded by police have been rising through the recession. However, this may be a result of increasing pressure on police forces to take domestic abuse incidents seriously.

Relate chief Ruth Sutherland said: “Time and again external pressures such as money can cause serious issues for couples. Rarely has this been more apparent than during the recent recession when we saw the daily grind become too much to bear for some, as illustrated by our new report.

“But strong relationships are the bedrock of a thriving society, helping us to achieve our goals and feel good about ourselves through good times and bad.

“They enable people to enter, re-enter and remain in the workplace, and help parents to support children to achieve more from education. The economic recession may be receding, but the fallout – the ‘social recession’ – is still very much being felt.” - Daily Mail

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