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Online Dating Leads to "More Successful" Marriages, Study

Update Date: Jun 03, 2013 03:11 PM EDT
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If you're still not sure about online dating, you may want to listen up.  A new study revealed that more than a third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online, and online couples actually enjoy happier and longer marriages.

While the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was unable to determine why online relationships were more successful, researchers say the reasons may include the strong motivations of online daters, the availability of advance screening the sheer volume of opportunities online.

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"Surprisingly, we found that marriages that started online were associated with better outcomes," lead author Professor John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago told Nature.com

"These data suggest that the Internet may be altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself,"Cacioppo said in a news release.

Researchers found that couples who met online were more likely to have higher marital satisfaction less likely to have marital breakups than relationships that began in face-to-face meetings.

Divorces were reported in about 6 percent of people who met online compared to 7.6 percent of people who met face-to-face.  Online couples also reported a mean score of 5.64 on a satisfactory survey compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline.

The study, which included 19,131 people, revealed that about 45 percent of participants met their partner online.  Researchers found that online daters were more likely to be older, or aged 30 to 39, employed and had a higher income.

Researchers found that people who met offline found their spouses at various venues including work, school church, social gathering, clubs and bars and places of worship.  Unsurprisingly, the study found that 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.

Researchers said the differences in marital outcomes from online and offline meetings held true even after accounting for demographic differences.  However, "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.

Cacioppo and his team noted that while deception often occurs online, studies suggest that people are relatively honest in online dating encounters, and lies tend to be limited to 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."

The study was funded by online dating service eHarmony.

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