Appy couples: Those who meet on dating sites keener to settle down – study

Research finds couples who meet by swiping right have stronger long-term intentions

With the Covid crisis putting paid to New Year’s Eve celebrations and many other opportunities to seek romance in person, dating apps have thrived.

But while such tech has long been associated with hookups, or casual relationships, a study suggests those who couple up after swiping right have as satisfying a relationship as those who met via traditional encounters – and might even be keener to settle down.

"We actually find that in certain ways couples that met through dating apps have even stronger long-term family formation or relationship intentions than other couples that met either offline or through other digital ways of meeting," said Dr Gina Potarca, author of the research from the University of Geneva.

Writing in the journal PLOS One, Dr Potarca analysed results from the nationally representative 2018 family and generations survey conducted by the Swiss federal statistical office that quizzed those aged 15 to 79 on a multitude of issues, including where couples met, and their intentions within that relationship.


Dr Potarca focused on a sample of 3,245 partnered individuals over the age of 18, and whose relationship was no more than 10 years old, finding that while the majority of individuals reported meeting their partner offline, 104 met their partner through dating apps, 264 met them via dating websites and 125 found their partner by means of other online services.

The proportion of people meeting their partner through dating apps rose dramatically over time.

But analysis of answers to questions around relationship intentions revealed there was little difference when it came to marital intentions and the desire or intention to have children between those who met via apps and those who met offline. What is more, there was little difference in relationship and life satisfaction.

Indeed, those who met their partner through an app were more likely to be planning to move in with them if they were not already cohabiting, even when factors such as age were taken into account. In addition, women who met their partner through an app were more likely to want a child within the next three years than those who met their partner offline.

The study also found that dating apps were linked to couples forming across wider geographical distances, and highly educated women pairing up with less educated men – the latter, said Dr Potarca, might be because app matches are based more on appearance and may be less influenced by social stigma.

Dr Potarca said the study pushed back against fears that dating apps threaten long-term relationships. “These moral panics don’t usually reflect the actual trends that are happening,” she said.

Dating apocalypse

However, the study is only based on respondents in Switzerland, and some of the questions were only aimed at people in heterosexual relationships. In addition, the number of people who met their partner on a dating app was relatively small, while it is difficult to disentangle cause and effect given the study is based on observations alone.

Dr Kathryn Coduto, an assistant professor of communication and media studies at South Dakota State University and an expert on dating apps who was not involved in the work, added there might be biases in who is answering the survey and how. But she said the results chimed with smaller studies that suggested dating apps were not leading to a "dating apocalypse".

Dr Coduto added that while some might be surprised by the findings about dating app users wanting to cohabit sooner and possibly being keener to consider children, many people download apps looking for long-term relationships.

“In fact, if that’s your motivation when downloading the app and you meet someone with those same goals, you probably would be ready to move in sooner,” she said.

Dr Coduto said it would be interesting to look further at non-heterosexual relationships and how many partners individuals had had via dating apps before meeting their current partner.

“It’s easy to read this study and think that all of these people got online, matched with their partner, and were done and ready to have children or at least move in together,” she said. “My guess is that it was much more of a slog than that, so it would be insightful to know what that process was like.” – Guardian