Why your interview matters: Relate

“The data you provide is important because it enables researchers to understand more about people’s everyday lives in the UK, what affects our wellbeing, and how we’re doing,” says Dr David Marjoribanks, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Relate

Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support and every year the charity helps over a million people of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations to strengthen their relationships. Using Understanding Society, Relate has created a new report called the Relationship Distress Monitor

Question and Answers

Why did you use Understanding Society particularly?

We wanted to estimate the prevalence of relationship distress across the country so were looking for a data set with a large sample size, containing measures of relationship distress. The Understanding Society study fit the bill – and also, being longitudinal, enabled us to look for patterns in relationship distress over time.

What makes the data useful?

This data is incredibly useful – it enabled us to estimate, for the first time in the UK, the prevalence of relationship distress, which the evidence shows is a clear significant risk factor for poorer mental and physical health as well as poorer outcomes for children.

What survey questions did you focus on?

We focused on the questions on people’s couple relationships, taken from the Dyadic Adjustment Scale.

  • How often do you discuss or have you considered divorce, separation, or terminating your relationship? (‘All the time’ to ‘Never’)
  • Do you ever regret that you married or lived together? (‘All the time’ to ‘Never’)
  • Please fill in the circle which best describes the degree of happiness, all things considered, of your relationship (‘Extremely unhappy’ to ‘Perfect’)

What were the key findings from the report?

  • An estimated 2.87 million people (18% of people in relationships) are in relationships which would be characterised as ‘distressed’.
  • The research found a clear link between negative experiences of the Recession and deterioration in relationships, with those who felt the greatest impact of the Recession being up to eight times as likely as those who were not negatively affected by recession to see their relationships break down.
  • For the full report please see the Relate website

What difference can this type of research make to policy?

This type of research can make a significant difference to policy. We discussed our research with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics – both of whom are considering including the findings and adopting the methodology in their existing measures of relationships in the UK – the DWP’s Family Stability Indicator and the ONS national wellbeing indicators. Our findings on relationship distress have also informed subsequent policy development within the Department for Work and Pensions. We also achieved widespread media coverage for our findings, with over 100 pieces of coverage reaching a circulation of over 100 million, which placed the issue of relationship distress on the policy agenda and in public consciousness.

What's your message to all of our participants?

Thank you for giving up your time to contribute your experiences to this rich data set. The data you provide is important because it enables researchers to understand more about people’s everyday lives in the UK, what affects our wellbeing, and how we’re doing. This data is very useful for showing policy makers the state of the nation (for example, the prevalence of relationship distress) and for influencing policy.

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