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72 per cent of women find their partners irritating according to new research

14 February 2013 | Tags: relationships, gender, Understanding Society

Survey of more than 20,000 Britons also suggests couples share worries and rely on each other this Valentine's Day

Women are more likely to find their partner irritating than men, according to new results released this Valentine's Day (14 February 2013). Research undertaken by NatCen Social Research, as part of the Economic and Social Research Council funded Understanding Society survey, shows that among couples who live together, 72 per cent of women say that their partners get on their nerves, compared with 59 per cent of men.

Although they may get on each other's nerves, the data reveals a strong tendency among couples to share their worries and rely on each other.

  • 98 per cent say they can rely on their partners a lot (83%) somewhat (11%) or a little (4%).

  • 96 per cent say they talk about worries with their partner a lot (65%) somewhat (23%) or a little (8%).

The new data comes from a survey of 21,394 adults who live with their partners and was carried out over a period of more than two years, from January 2010 to March 2012, for the UK's largest longitudinal social science study, Understanding Society.

The research also tells us that as people get older they find their partners less irritating. Only 29 per cent of people aged between 16 and 34 say their partners don't get on their nerves at all, compared with 30 per cent of 35-54 year olds, 35 per cent of 55-64 year olds and 40 per cent of people aged over 65.
Older people are also less likely to let their partners down, 74 per cent of over 65s say their partners never let them down, compared with 65 per cent of 16-34 year olds and 35-54 year olds and 67 per cent of 55-64 year olds.

When it comes to sharing worries, however, there is very little difference between age groups. 67 per cent of both 16-34 year olds and over 65s say that they talk about their worries with their partner a lot.

Penny Young, Chief Executive of NatCen Social Research, said: "The Understanding Society survey is invaluable when it comes to understanding what keeps relationships going. Our research shows that how much couples can share their worries or rely on each other is key to whether a relationship lasts and Valentine's Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect on whether we are doing enough to support our partners."

For further details, including more detailed tables of results, contact Leigh Marshall: leigh.marshall@natcen.ac.uk 0207 549 8506 or 0782 803 1850.

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Notes to editors

NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people's lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

Understanding Society is the world's largest longitudinal social science study started in 2009. It is managed by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Households are surveyed on an annual basis.

The second full set of data from the Understanding Society survey has just been released, marking a significant milestone in this extensive longitudinal research project. At Wave 2 a sample of 30,500 households were surveyed, including 54,600 adults and 5,000 children. Wave 2 interviews were carried out from January 2010 to March 2012. Adults are interviewed either face-to-face or over the phone using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI). Respondents aged 10-15 fill in a paper self-completion questionnaire.