WASHINGTON, June 3 (by Karin Zeitvogel for RIA Novosti) – More and more married couples are meeting online, and their unions tend to be happier and last longer than marriages where couples met in more traditional venues like schools, work or social gatherings, a study published Monday shows.
A third of more than 19,000 Americans who tied the knot between 2005 and 2012 told researchers from the University of Chicago, Harvard University and Gestalt Research of California that they had met their spouse online, says the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Among couples who met online, six percent reported that the marriage fell apart compared with 7.6 percent who met “off-line.”
Couples who first met online also reported slightly higher marital satisfaction than their counterparts who met in the more traditional, pre-Internet ways, the study found.
“Meeting a marital partner in traditional off-line venues has declined over the past several decades but meeting online has grown dramatically, with online dating now a billion-dollar industry,” says the study.
Nearly half of the people who hooked up with a future betrothed online did so via an Internet dating site, but couples also formed via social networking (21 percent), chat rooms (9.5 percent), online communities (6 percent), even multi-player game sites (3.6 percent) and email, (2 percent).
In the offline world, the place most couples met was work (22 percent), followed by an introduction by a friend (19 percent), school (11 percent), a social gathering (10 percent) or in a bar or club (8.7 percent).
Those who first hooked up in bars, on a blind date or in virtual worlds where they interact with others using an avatar were the least likely to have a long and happy marriage, the study found.
The researchers did not analyze why meeting online might lead to a more successful marriage, but hypothesized that it could be due to “the greater pool of potential spouses that are available… the nature of the users who are attracted to and gain access to that site,” and even the algorithms used by the sites to pair up couples.
They urged colleagues in other countries to conduct similar studies, noting that, even though they looked only at American marriages “the rapid increase in the use of the Internet is a global phenomenon.”
The survey of 19,131 people that was used as the basis for the study was commissioned by a popular online dating site, and one of the researchers is on the payroll of the same dating site as a scientific adviser.
But the involvement in the study and analysis by all of the authors was reviewed and approved by the University of Chicago Institutional Review Board and the online dating site agreed prior to the study to publish the results, regardless of whether they reflected well on online meeting places or not.
Because the results of the study only reflect on the first six or seven years of marriage, the researchers have called for follow-up studies to determine if, with the passage of time, online couples remain more satisfied in their marriages than couples who met the traditional way, or if the differences dissipate over time.