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Married or cohabiting couples look to partners for emotional support

A recent survey has found that nine out of ten people who are married or in a cohabiting relationship would turn to their partner when they felt in need of emotional support.


The study, by Understanding Society, looked at how much personal and emotional support people felt they received from not only their spouse/partner, but also other family members and friends. Respondents were also asked to rate negative support from their partner, other family members and friends including how much they felt criticised and let down by those people.

"Spouses or partners were largely described as providing positive support," explains Professor Heather Laurie, Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. "Some 88% of respondents said their partner understood the way they feel, with only 10% admitting that they had felt let down by their partner when they were counting on them."

In the UK, family members and friends can also provide important sources of positive support, but it seems that men are more inclined to rely primarily on their partner (if they have one) while women are happier to turn also to family and friends. In relation to family members, women were significantly more likely to report having positive support than men. More than three quarters of women said they could talk to family members about their worries compared with only two thirds of men.

Understanding where people receive emotional support from is important, researchers argue, because existing evidence suggests a ‘buffering effect’ of having positive social support in the face of shocks such as divorce, ill-health, bereavement, or losing your job. Having positive and strong social support also appears linked with better psychological and physical health.


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