One in four people are ‘unhappy’ in their relationship, new study into relationship quality reveals

05 February 2014

A quarter of people living in Britain have reported some degree of unhappiness in their relationship, resulting in a partnership that is of poor ‘relationship quality,’ academics say.

Evidence also shows that around 40% of people report being ‘very happy’ in their relationship, however, around 15% view themselves as being ‘very unhappy’ in their relationship.

The findings are published in ‘Understanding Relationship Quality’, a report from relationship charity OnePlusOne, which offers a timely review of the research evidence concerning how happy we are in our relationships.

Relationship quality is generally referred to how happy or satisfied a person is in their relationship and how well partners get on together. Overall, relationship quality declines over the course of a relationship, however the extent and speed of the decline varies, the review says.

The review reveals that relationship quality can be affected by difficult events or circumstances couples encounter.  The stress of life events that are likely to undermine relationship quality include: couples who have become parents for the first time, work-related pressure, unemployment, substance abuse, caring for children with special needs or a partner who is unwell can affect relationship quality.

According to different sources, between 30% to 40% of people have approached their GP about relationship difficulties, while 43% of respondents to the British Social Attitudes Survey would not want anyone to know if they had seen a counsellor or therapist for relationship support.

Dr Lester Coleman, head of research at OnePlusOne said: ‘The majority of what we know about the consequences of relationship breakdown originates from comparing people who are married to those who have divorced.

‘However, emerging research has paid increasing attention to the quality of the relationship and whether it differs across a range of family forms. These new studies have demonstrated that rather than relationship status, it is the quality of the relationship that matters.’

The review is intended for frontline workers and policy makers. Students, researchers and those interested in families and relationships would also benefit from the publication as an essential resource in deepening their understanding of relationship quality.

OnePlusOne hosts The Listening Room, a daily free live chat service offering one-to-one support to anyone needing somewhere to offload concerns they might have about their relationship.

The Listening Room is based on OnePlusOne’s Brief Encounters® model designed to meet the needs of frontline practitioners in their work with families.
For more information on Brief Encounters® go to

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For more information please call Nadia Gilani at OnePlusOne on 020 7553 9538 or email

Notes to editors


About OnePlusOne

  • OnePlusOne is a research-based charity that has been investigating what makes couple relationships work or fall apart for more than 40 years.
  • It aims to strengthen relationships by helping couples and parents tackle issues early on through a range of online resources.
  • It also provides online training for frontline family workers to equip them with the skills to offer timely relationship support in a face-to-face setting.
  • Based on latest research evidence, it promotes early action to equip couples to deal with relationship issues before they become entrenched.
  • It was recently commissioned by the Department for Education to lead a high-profile campaign to encourage couples to see seeking support as normal in strengthening their relationship.

For more information, go to