One in Five Adults Experienced Relationship Breakdown During U.K. Lockdowns

More than one in five adults said they experienced a complete breakdown in a relationship at home or at work in the past year, the U.K.’s largest study of social ties during the pandemic has revealed. The Guardian has more.

Younger people were more likely to have their relationships affected, with experts saying it showed the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on this age group. They added that job losses and anxiety over finances could have played a role, as well as the inability to see people outside their household during the lockdown.

A quarter of people reported worsening relationships with their spouse or partner and a quarter reported difficulties with colleagues or co-workers, according to University College London’s COVID-19 Social Study. More than one-fifth (22%) of adults experienced a complete breakdown of a relationship with either family, friends, colleagues or neighbours.

Launched in the week before the first lockdown started, the ongoing study showed that adults aged 18-29 were most likely to report a relationship breakdown – 35% compared with 12% of adults aged 60 and over.

However, it was not all bad news, as nearly half (46%) of young adults said the quality of their relationships with their spouse or partner had been better than usual over the past year. This is a higher proportion than in adults aged 30-59 and those aged 60 and over, with 27% and 21% of these age groups reporting a better relationship with their spouse or partner respectively.

The study is being funded by the Nuffield Foundation, with additional support from Wellcome and U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI). It has had more than 70,000 participants, who have been followed across the past 72 weeks.

The study’s lead author, Dr Elise Paul from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said the report showed “the mixed impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”. She added: “Younger adults reporting a better relationship with their spouse or partner may have benefited from furlough or remote working allowing them to spend more time together.

“On the other hand, the stress of the pandemic and lockdown measures which prevented people from seeing those outside their household may have contributed to the breakdown of other relationships, particularly those with people who do not live close by.”

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