Why you don't get along with your housemates, according to science

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Susan Devaney
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Lockdown TV: New Girl

A new study has found a plausible reason for not getting along nicely with your fellow housemates. 

Life in your twenties can be interesting. As the decade is known for most as a period of growth – from trying to establish some sort of career to paying off student debt – we sure do have a lot to contend with. Not forgetting, the inevitable flat-sharing.

As we move from town to city, flat to house, it’s fair to say that by the time we turn 30, life in our twenties has welcomed a whole host of various housemates – some good, some not so good - as we struggle to save for our own place.

Which is why a recent study by New York University has delved into the reasoning behind why we can often fall privy to disagreements, full blown arguments, and just generally not seeing eye-to-eye with the people we live with.

By studying 187 same-sex roommates – from a range of various ethnic backgrounds – during the academic year, the researchers monitored the current distress level of one roommate against the perceived stress level from a fellow roomie. The research found that we tend to greatly underestimate our roommates’ feelings, by falling into the trap of assuming they feel the same way we do. Basically, we need to be more aware of people’s feelings. 

Rachel and Monica had flat-sharing spats, but they made it work very well. 

Although the study is predominantly focused on university dorms, it’s fair to say the study’s findings can be applied to house sharing in all shapes and forms.

“College students can detect certain levels of distress in their roommates and spot changes over the course of a semester, but they nonetheless underestimate the absolute level of distress,” says lead researcher Patrick Shrout, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology.

So the next time you prepare yourself for a verbal fight over who’s turn it is to clean the bathroom, take some time to show a little empathy first. You never know, you might just find the Monica to your Rachel.


Images: Fox / Rex Features 


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.