An international team of psychologists led by researchers from Lancaster University has carried out the first "big data" analysis of relationship problems .
The study began as an attempt to map the most common relationship problems people experience outside of clinical settings.
Natural language methods
Using natural language processing methods, the team analyzed the demographic and psychological characteristics of more than 184,000 people who posted their relationship problems on an anonymous online forum. The researchers were then able to statistically determine the most common themes that came up in each post, creating a "map" of the most common relationship problems.
The results showed that communication problems were the most frequently mentioned problem, with almost 1 in 5 people experiencing difficulties discussing problems, and 1 in 8 mentioned trust problems in their relationships.
Previously unexpected patterns also emerged from the data, including key gender differences in which themes were used the most.
The analyzes revealed that the most common theme mentioned by people who spoke about their relationship problems was the emotional pain caused by relationship problems , rather than the problems themselves. The most common theme was about "heartbreak" and was made up of words like regret, breakup, crying, and heartbroken.
Contrary to popular belief, the team’s findings showed that men talk about distress much more than women . These findings suggest that the stereotype that men are less emotionally involved in relationships than women may not be accurate.
Additionally, the researchers found that men were more likely to seek relationship help than women in online settings.