Cohabiting couples: The link between experience of financial hardship and personal psychological distress

An Australian study has shown that there is a strong link between experience of financial hardship and personal psychological distress (Creed, et al, 2006).

One point made by the authors is that financial distress reduces a person’s capacity to plan and interferes with planning for a meaningful future. It is this that primarily reduces psychological wellbeing.

A question that emerges from a finding like this is to what extent are financially troubled cohabiting couples affected by their financial distress? Is it possible that their relationship satisfaction is reduced by financial stress?

An analysis of a sample of 520 PREPARE couples reveals that individual income is positively and significantly correlated with couple positive couple agreement scores in a number of key categories. The greater the income the higher the couple satisfaction. For both males and females, the categories that reveal this trend are Financial Management, Leisure Activities, and Family & Friends.

This seems to indicate that financial hardship (associated with lower levels of income) interferes with and inhibits planning and implementation of activities and goals that are finance-related or costly. For lower income couples, setting up and managing budgets becomes difficult and couple conflict becomes more likely. Also, engaging in costly leisure activities and spending time with friends and family in such activities becomes more difficult for financially troubled couples.

PREPARE/ENRICH has several resources to help you unpack and mine the assessment results around money.


  • Creed, P.A., & Miller, J. Psychological distress in the labour market: Shame or deprivation? Australian Journal of Psychology, 2006, 58, 31-39

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

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