Marriages from online dating most successful, says U.S. study

Shereen Dindar
Shine OnJune 4, 2013

What's the best place to meet your spouse? Online. The worst place? The bar.

At least, that's what a new University of Chicago study commissioned by online dating website eHarmony would like you to believe.

The research, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that that approximately one-third of 19,131 American couples who married between 2005 - 2012 met their spouse online. And while this research was based on U.S. data, there is no reason to believe the trend is significantly different in Canada.

"We found evidence for a dramatic shift since the advent of the Internet in how people are meeting their spouse," lead author and psychology professor, John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago, tells Agence France-Presse.

The researchers found that marriage breakups were reported in about 6 per cent of the people who met online, compared with 7.6 per cent of the people who met offline. This was noted to be a statistically significant difference.

Also see: The very worst place to go on a first date

They also discovered that marriages for people who met online reported a mean score of 5.64 for relationship satisfaction, compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline.

The difference remained statistically significant even after controlling for variables like year of marriage, sex, age, education, ethnicity, household income, religion and employment status.

People who met online were more likely to be older (between 30 to 39) and have a higher income. The group was diverse racially and ethnically.

Among the least successful marriages were those in which people met at bars, through blind dates and in virtual online worlds where people communicate through avatars.

The researchers cannot determine a cause-and-effect relationship for their findings. There is no way of knowing whether online dating fosters more successful marriages, or if the people who choose to online date have specific personality characteristics that make them more successful in marriage.

"It is possible that individuals who met their spouse online may be different in personality or motivation to form a long-term marital relationship," says Cacioppo.

Also see: Martha Stewart's tips for online dating

Cacioppo hypothesizes that those who online date may be more committed to finding a long-term relationship than those who don't. They may have personality strengths, including certain cognitive skills such as empathy, persistence, or impulse-control that helps foster happiness in committed relationships, he tells the Los Angeles Times.

He also suggests they are looking for a mate from a larger and more diverse pool of people, which could increase their chance of success.

Other academics who have studied online dating -- such as Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University -- agrees with the conclusion of Cacioppo's study.

"The overreach occurs when the authors conclude that meeting a partner online is better than meeting a partner through offline avenues," Finkel tells AFP.

What are your thoughts on online dating? Have you ever tried it? Tell us your experience in the comments.

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