Increased risk of relationship breakdown for couples hit by recession

8th March 2015 by


The economic downturn experienced by the UK has affected many people in a number of different ways. A new study by Relate – Relationships, Recession and Recovery – has revealed that couples most seriously affected by the financial crisis are eight times more likely to suffer relationship breakdown than those not affected.

Data from Understanding Society (the UK household longitudinal study) was used by Relate to show that a couple’s direct experience of recession (from 2009 to 2012) affected the way their relationship fared.

Relate studied a sample of 20,000 people from the study who were put into groups according to their experience of the recession; ‘Forging ahead’, ‘Doing well’, ‘Getting by’, ‘Overworked and underpaid’, ‘Bearing the brunt’, and “Distressed and disengaged”.

The report suggested that, as arguments over money are known to be a major cause of relationship problems, it was to be expected that an economic recession would take its toll on social relationships as well as economic ones. And the research proved this hypothesis.

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Impact of recession correlates with likelihood of divorce

The people most likely to have had their relationships affected by the downturn were those in the “Distressed and disengaged” group – being disengaged from the labour market and suffering high financial distress, coupled with low optimism. This group was eight times more likely to have suffered relationship breakdown (six times for men and ten times for women) than those in the “Forging ahead” group – those who did not experience any adverse symptom of recession.

The “Getting by group” – those who were managing to cope financially, with high levels of unpaid overtime work, but who were optimistic about the future – were nearly twice as likely to have suffered relationship breakdown as people from the “Forging ahead” group.

The report states that the findings back up previous research studies which also found that “financial shocks” and unemployment have a tendency to reduce quality of relationships and result in an increase of conflict, reduced mental wellbeing and even have an impact on physical health.

However, evidence showed that people experiencing “poorer relationships” are less likely to end their relationships or seek divorce during a recession due to cost and perceived further financial disadvantage. This, worryingly, is likely to further exacerbate already worsening relationships during a downturn and could “destabilise economic progress”, causing further problems for society and an impedance to full recovery.

The full report can be accessed here.

Healys for legal advice on divorce

If you are experiencing any issue arising from relationship breakdown and/or divorce – financial settlement claims, children orders, contested divorce petition – the family law team at Healys in London and Brighton can help.

Our expert divorce solicitors have many years’ experience in this field and can offer legal advice backed by a full service law firm which has the experience to help in the myriad complex situations which can occur in divorce.

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