New national study into relationships and sex lives reveals internet as growing problem


A new study has lifted the lid on the state of Scotland’s relationships and found that the internet is one of the biggest causes of relationship problems.
Published today by Relationships Scotland, The Way We Are Now 2014 is one of the largest studies of its kind.

The report asked more than 5000 people across the UK how they feel about their sex life and relationships. It reveals some concerning statistics around how close we feel to others, with one in five or 18% rarely or never feeling loved in their relationship and one in ten saying they didn’t have a close friend.

One of the key findings in the report was about the growing problem of online flirting and affairs as a major cause of distress and relationship breakdown. The charity estimates that in at least 50% of cases in couple counselling in Scotland the internet had an impact on the relationship. Yet in the study very few people reported the internet as causing a problem in their relationship

Only 1% of respondents said they’d cheated with someone online but not in person. This clashes with the findings from survey of counsellors, with many of them reporting the use of social media and online pornography as an issue that comes up in the counselling room in over half of cases.

Anne Chilton, Head of Counselling said, “There is a disconnect going on here. Problems arise when a partner finds out that instead of using the internet for shopping or browsing they are flirting online or meeting up with someone else. When the partner finds out it can be too easy to just blank it out. What often happens now is that instead of talking to their partner when they are unhappy in the relationship or dissatisfied with their sex life, people get drawn into looking for a solution online.”

One in four people are dissatisfied with their sex life (24%) and a quarter also reported having an affair (25%).

The Way We Are Now 2014 included an additional survey carried out by Relate of 250 Relate and Relationships Scotland counsellors, who listed three factors for a happy sex life: improving communication, making time to be together and learning how to talk about sex with your partner.

The study finds a clear link between relationships and high levels of wellbeing but simply being in a relationship doesn’t guarantee that people will feel good about themselves: it’s the quality of the relationship that has an impact on wellbeing and happiness. Relationships Scotland said it is worrying that one in ten people don’t have a single close friend and one in five rarely or never felt loved in the two weeks before the survey.

Anne said, “It’s very sad the number of people who don’t have a close friend. Research suggests it is linked to the rise of the internet. While someone could have hundreds of friends on Facebook they might feel these are superficial rather than friendships of real substance. Online you only use one channel of communication and it’s hard to connect with people. When you are face to face you can feel, hear, see and really interact so it’s much better for building friendships and deeper levels of intimacy.”

The report finds a strong connection between our relationships and our personal wellbeing. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, relationships still act as ‘shock absorbers’ when times are hard. Relationships Scotland says the research shows that couples and families can get the help they need to invest time and effort into building stronger relationships.

Stuart Valentine, Chief Executive of Relationships Scotland, said: “This new study examines the quality of our relationships, showing a clear link between our personal relationships and our wellbeing. Whilst there is much to celebrate, the results around how close we feel to others are very concerning. There is a significant minority of people who never or rarely feel loved or who have no close friends.”

“We know that strong relationships are vital for both individuals and society as a whole, so investing in them is crucial. Through our network of services around Scotland we provide support, advice and counselling to couples, families and individuals as well as mediation. The help is there and we hope that anyone who feels they need a helping hand will get in touch with us.”