Meeting online leads to happier, more enduring marriages, study finds

June 3, 2013, University of Chicago
Credit: Jeff Belmonte / Wikipedia

More than a third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online, according to new research at the University of Chicago, which also found that online couples have happier, longer marriages.

Although the study did not determine why relationships that started online were more successful, the reasons may include the strong motivations of online daters, the availability of advance screening, and the sheer volume of opportunities online.

"These data suggest that the Internet may be altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself," said the study's lead author, John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.

The results were published in the paper, " and Breakups Differ Across Online and Offline Meeting Venues," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of June 3 to 7.

Meeting online has become an increasingly common way to find a partner, with opportunities arising through social networks, exchanges of email, , multi-player games and online communities. The research shows that couples who met online were more likely to have higher marital satisfaction and lower rates of marital breakups than relationships that began in face-to-face meetings.

Marriage breakups were reported in about 6 percent of the people who met online, compared with 7.6 percent of the people who met offline. Marriages for people who met online reported a mean score of 5.64 on a satisfaction survey, compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline. The survey was based on questions about their happiness with their marriage and degree of affection, communication and love for each other.

For the study, Cacioppo led a team that examined the results of a of 19,131 people who responded to a survey by about their marriages and satisfaction.

The study found a wide variety of venues, both online and offline, where people met. About 45 percent met through an online dating site. People who met online were more likely to be older (30 to 39 is the largest age group represented); employed and had a higher income. The group was diverse racially and ethnically.

People who met offline found marriage partners at various venues including work, school, church, social gatherings, clubs and bars, and places of worship. Among the least successful marriages were those in which people met at bars, through blind dates and in virtual worlds (where individuals interact in online spaces via avatars), the researchers found.

Relationships that start online may benefit from selectivity and the focused nature of online dating, the authors said. The differences in marital outcomes from online and offline meetings persisted after controlling for demographic differences, but "it is possible that individuals who met their spouse online may be different in personality, motivation to form a long-term marital relationship, or some other factor," said Cacioppo. Meeting online also may provide a larger pool of prospective marriage partners, along with advance screening in the case of dating services. And although deception often occurs online, studies suggest that people are relatively honest in online dating encounters; the lies tend to be minor misrepresentations of weight or height.

"Marital outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors. Where one meets their spouse is only one contributing factor, and the effects of where one meets one's spouse are understandably quite small and do not hold for everyone," Cacioppo said. "The results of this study are nevertheless encouraging, given the paradigm shift in terms of how Americans are meeting their spouses."

Explore further: Marriage can threaten health: Study finds satisfied newlyweds more likely to gain weight

More information: Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues, John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo, Gian C. Gonzaga, Elizabeth L. Ogburn, Tyler J. VanderWeele, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1222447110

Related Stories

Marriage can threaten health: Study finds satisfied newlyweds more likely to gain weight

April 3, 2013
On average, young newlyweds who are satisfied with their marriage gain weight in the early years after they exchange vows, putting them at increased risk for various health problems related to being overweight.

21 minutes to marital satisfaction: Study shows how minimal intervention can preserve marital quality over time

February 5, 2013
Marital satisfaction—so critical to health and happiness – generally declines over time. A brief writing intervention that helps spouses adopt a more objective outlook on marital conflict could be the answer.

30 percent of teen girls report meeting offline with someone they met online

January 14, 2013
A new study highlights the risk that female teenagers face when they go online – a risk heightened for teen girls who have been victims of abuse or neglect.

Online role-playing games hurt marital satisfaction, study says

February 14, 2012
Online role playing games negatively affect real-life marital satisfaction, according to a new Brigham Young University study to be published February 15th in the Journal of Leisure Research.

Happily married couples consider themselves healthier, expert says

February 13, 2013
Research shows that married people have better mental and physical health than their unmarried peers and are less likely to develop chronic conditions than their widowed or divorced counterparts. A University of Missouri ...

Recommended for you

People with prosthetic arms less affected by common illusion

January 22, 2018
People with prosthetic arms or hands do not experience the "size-weight illusion" as strongly as other people, new research shows.

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.