Research funded and led by The Open University is the first to demonstrate how using an App can play an effective role in relationships among couples.
A report just published by the OU and the University of Brighton studied use of the relationship app Paired, following its launch last October as part of ongoing research into couple relationships. The study focused on usage by couples of the app over a three month period, with data gathered from more than 4,400 anonymous users.
The research, which demonstrates that an app can be effective in supporting behaviour change in romantic relationships, comes at a time when the use of smartphones to maintain and track health and wellbeing (so called mHealth) has grown enormously.
Researchers developed a rigorous measurement of overall relationship quality to analyse the impact of technology on relationship behaviour. They found improvement in the way app users conversed and connected with their partner, and saw relationship quality increase by over a third (36%) after three months usage, with benefits improving the longer and more frequently the app was used.
The study found that sustained, regular use of the app significantly impacts on key areas of relationships: communication, dealing with conflict, feeling connected, and comfort with discussing sex life.
After three months, 98% of Paired users agreed that they openly communicated with their partner, with 81% of users crediting the app for improving their communication as a couple, rising to 85% for those using Paired daily.
“Comfortable talking about sex”
Researchers found that Paired users were three times more likely to be confident that they can discuss and resolve arguments, after using the app for three months. Emotional connection also benefited with four in five users strongly agreeing that they enjoy a positive emotional connection to their partner.
The study additionally found that such technology can help with even the most intimate of areas in relationship, sex. Recognised as one of the most challenging topics for couples, after three months use eight in 10 users of Paired felt comfortable discussing their sex life with their partner.
Use of the app also prompted regular relationship care, with nearly three-quarters (72%) of users remembering to do something for their relationship on the days they used Paired.
Professor Jacqui Gabb, Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University says:
“mHealth is expanding rapidly with more than 200 new health apps coming onto the market each day. We’re all familiar with how technology can help us date and find a partner, but this new research clearly demonstrates that there’s an equally important role for tech once we are in a relationship.
“Small, daily interactions are the key to happy and healthy relationships and apps are the perfect tool to prompt much-needed relationship care.”
The Paired app combines audio courses from clinical psychotherapists and academics with fun daily questions and quizzes to answer with your partner. The app has been particularly informed by research carried out at the Open University by Prof Gabb, who works as Paired’s chief relationship’s officer.
Prof Gabb collaborated on the published research report with Dr Catherine Aicken, Senior Research Fellow, University of Brighton, Dr Salvatore Di Martino, Researcher in Wellbeing and Social Justice, Dr Tom Witney, Post Doctoral Research Associate, The Open University and Dr Mathijs Lucassen, Senior Lecturer Mental Health, The Open University.
An executive summary of the research can be viewed here.
The Open University and University of Brighton study used a mixed methods approach, and gathered data from over 4,400 users of Paired, from October – December 2020.