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2012 research finding

Relationships important for mental health

Published Updated

What significance do relationships have for the mental health of each partner? Data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) suggests that low satisfaction in the relationship is an important risk factor for anxiety and depression in both women and men. The study also suggests that a good relationship acts as a buffer against stress factors such as physical illness, unemployment and low income.

What significance do relationships have for the mental health of each partner? Data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) suggests that low satisfaction in the relationship is an important risk factor for anxiety and depression in both women and men. The study also suggests that a good relationship acts as a buffer against stress factors such as physical illness, unemployment and low income.


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The authors used data from 62,956 pregnant women and their partners in MoBa to examine risk factors for anxiety and depression. Approximately half were married, and the majority of the others were cohabiting. 

  • Low relationship satisfaction was the most important risk factor for anxiety and depression. 
  • Other important risk factors were physical illness, unemployment and first-time motherhood. 
  • The risk factors were largely the same for men and women. 
  • Unemployment was particularly negative for men. 
  • For women, unemployment and low self-esteem in the male partner had a negative effect on mental health.

People in good relationships were better prepared to cope with stress in other areas without being anxious and depressed compared to people in bad relationships. Using self-reporting by both partners, the researchers could also examine how one partner's perception of the relationship affected the other partner's mental health. The results show that even though one is unhappy with the relationship, one will still be able to cope with more stress in other areas if the partner is satisfied with the relationship.

Few other studies examine risk factors for anxiety and depression among men in this life stage. Compared with previous research in this area, this study examined a relatively large number of risk factors simultaneously. The sample size is unique and the results provide fairly reliable information on the effects of the various factors in relation to each other.

Reference

  • Gun-Mette B Røsand, Kari Slinning, Malin Eberhard-Gran, Espen Røysamb and Kristian Tambs. The buffering effect of relationship satisfaction on emotional distress in couples BMC Public Health 2012, 12: 66