Research spots wedded bliss’ slim lead on cohabiting contentment

February 14, 2011

Never mind the roses: no Valentine’s Day would be complete without academic insights into the nature of love in modern Britain.

Among the research released this 14 February is a study that suggests that, despite rising divorce rates, the majority of UK couples are happy in their relationship.

However, the findings indicate that slightly more married couples are happy than those who are just cohabiting, once other factors are taken into account.

A team led by John Ermisch, professor of economics at the University of Essex, asked individuals in relationships to assess their happiness on a seven-point scale ranging from “extremely unhappy” to “perfect”.

Its early findings indicate that 90 per cent of the married women and 93 per cent of the married men who took part in the survey are happy with their situation. This compares with 88 per cent of cohabiting women and 92 per cent of cohabiting men.

The researchers found that factors affecting happiness levels include marital status, age and the duration of the relationship.

The most content were found to be individuals who have attended university, who do not have children, and who have been in their relationship for less than five years.

The research was carried out as part of the Understanding Society project at Essex’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

Professor Ermisch said the findings would “open up many new avenues of research in studying both marriage and family life across the UK’s population”.

john.elmes@tsleducation.com

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