How Online Dating Affects Mental Health

How Online Dating Affects Mental Health

By Kelly Burch 05/31/18

A new study revealed that online dating can impact mental health in a variety of ways and may even lead to tech addiction. 

Image: 
an illustration of a man and woman looking for love on the internet

These days finding someone to date should be easier than ever. After all, dating apps can tell you who is near by, what they’re after in a partner, and even what they look like.

However, experts warn that online dating can be tied to lower self-esteem, tech addiction and depression. 

A study published in 2016 polled 1,044 woman and 273 men (mostly college-aged) about their social habits. About 10% of them were using Tinder. 

“We found that being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalization of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness,” said Jessica Strübel, PhD, of the University of North Texas, who co-authored the study with Trent Petrie, PhD.

“Tinder users reported having lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and bodies and having lower levels of self-worth than the men and women who did not use Tinder,” she added. 

Researchers were primarily interested in how online dating affected women, but they were surprised to see that using the dating and hookup app had a real effect on men, too. 

“Although current body image interventions primarily have been directed toward women, our findings suggest that men are equally and negatively affected by their involvement in social media,” said Strübel.

The pain of being rejected in online dating scenarios can also sting. A study published in 2011 found that being socially rejected activates the same parts of the brain that physical pain does. That means that opening oneself up on dating apps—where you can be rejected faster than ever—can have a real impact on well-being. 

In addition, being involved with online dating might lead to tech addiction. Last year, Match.com did a survey that found that 15% of singles felt addicted to the process of finding a date online, CNN Health reported.

Millennials were most likely to say that they felt addicted to online dating, while 54% of women using the dating service said that they felt burned out by the process. 

While there is still debate over the merits of tech addiction, one study published in 2016 linked technology addiction with depression and anxiety. People who spent more time online (perhaps looking for a date) were more severely affected. 

"People who self-described as having really addictive-style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales,” said Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois who co-authored this study.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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