Unemployment reduces couples’ happiness

New research shows that women, in particular, become unhappy with their relationships if their partner loses their job

A study of heterosexual British couples over eight years has found that people are less happy with their relationships when they are unemployed, or when their partner is unemployed.

Unsurprisingly, the longer individuals or their partners are unemployed, the less happy they become with their relationships. The research also found, however, that people’s response to an having an unemployed partner differs according to gender.

The research, by Brienna Perelli-Harris and Niels Blom at the University of Southampton, used data from Understanding Society, based on interviews with over 20,000 people in Waves 1, 3, 5, and 7 of our study (covering 2009-17).

They found that women are less happy when their partners become unemployed, but men are not as concerned with their partners’ job loss. When men are re-employed after a period of unemployment, women continue to feel unhappy with the relationship.

The authors say, “This indicates that men’s unemployment can have a long-term effect, even ‘scarring’ the female partner’s opinion of the relationship. These findings highlight the gendered nature of relationships and employment among British couples. Although attitudes have changed in recent decades, many people continue to think that it is a man’s responsibility to be the main provider. At the same time, women, particularly mothers, are often expected to stay at home or work part time. This traditional pattern may explain why men’s unemployment affects how happy women are in relationships but not vice versa.

They recommend that policy-makers should consider the effects of unemployment on both the unemployed and their partners. The research was published in a policy briefing for the Centre for Population Change, and they have also written about their work for The Conversation.

Read their article in The Conversation

Read their policy briefing for the Centre for Population Change