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14 February 2011

The UK is a nation of happy couples

Colchester Campus

Whether you are married or cohabiting with your partner, the vast majority of couples in the UK are happy in their relationship. Initial findings, from Understanding Society shows that around 90 percent of individuals who are living with a partner are happy with their relationship.

Researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) asked both individuals in the couple to rate their happiness on a seven point scale; from the lowest score of ‘extremely unhappy’ to the middle point of ‘happy’, the highest point being ‘perfect’. The self-reported happiness rating revealed that 90 percent of married women and 88 percent of cohabiting women are happy in their relationships. Ninety-three percent of married men and 92 percent of cohabiting men said they were happy in their relationship.

The findings indicate the happiest couples are those in which both are educated to degree level, have no children, have been together for less than five years and the man is employed. Factors such as being married or cohabiting, age of the individuals and duration of the partnership all have an effect on the level of happiness in a relationship.

Professor John Ermisch, one of the authors of a book due to be published later this month that showcases a range of findings from the survey, commented: 'Understanding Society has opened up many new avenues of research in studying both marriage and family life across the UK’s population and will continue to do so over the years to come.'

The study also showed that after taking into account a variety of factors, including age, gender, number of children, relationship duration, employment status and education married people are happier than their cohabiting counterparts.

One of the unique strengths of this study is that the researchers are able to study all members of a household. This means that both partners’ responses can be matched up with one another to give a richer and more detailed analysis than if the information was collected for only one of the partners.

The research is due to be published later this month as part of  a new book called, Understanding Society: Early findings from the first wave of the UK’s household longitudinal study. The chapter, Family Relationships, is written by John Ermisch, Maria Iacovou and Alexandra Skew.

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