Couples who meet online are 'six times more likely to get divorced'

Married couples who got together on an app or website are six times more likely to divorce than couples who met at university or via family and friends in the first three years of marriage, according to a new study.

The research, by the Marriage Foundation, found that couples who met online and married since the year 2000 had the highest risk of divorce during their first three years of marriage – at 12%, compared to just 2% for those who met via family, friends or neighbours.

Even after seven years, online couples had a 17% risk of divorce compared to just 10% for those who met through in-real-life channels.

The study, surveyed 2,000 married adults aged 30 and over – and asked where they had met their first spouse. Unsurprisingly, online meetings are now the most popular place to meet a husband or wife, accounting for a third (32%) of those marrying in the last two years, up from just 1% in the 1990s and 7% in the 2000s.

However, online meetings don’t appear to be the only risk for couples, as the study found that by 10 years of marriage, those who met through the workplace have the highest rate of divorce – at 24%, compared to 20% of those who met online, 19% who met in a bar or restaurant, and 15% of those who met via family, friends or neighbours.

‘In regression analyses, the only differences of statistical significance were between those who met online who were more likely to divorce in the first three years of marriage, but only when compared to those who met through family or friends or who met socially in a bar or restaurant,’ read the findings.

‘Taking into account gender, age and occupation, the odds of divorce within the first three years of marriage was six times higher among those who met online compared to those who met through family, friends or neighbours.

‘These differences were not repeated in my five, seven, or ten year analyses. Across each of these time periods, there were no significant differences in divorce risk depending on where couples met.’

Why are there higher divorce risks for couple who met online?

The researchers suggest that one strong possibility for these findings is that couples who meet online are marrying ‘as relative strangers’.

‘Gathering reliable information about the long-term character of the person you are dating or marrying is quite obviously more difficult for couples who meet online without input from mutual friends or family or other community,’ reads the report.

‘For online couples, wider social bonds between families and friends have to form from scratch rather than being well-established over years or even decades.

‘It is therefore not entirely unsurprising that the input of family, friends or co-workers reduces the risk of making a hasty mistake.’

Harry Benson, Marriage Foundation’s research director says: ‘Our findings in no way undermine, or diminish the vital role of online dating. But it does highlight the greater risks and difficulties of getting to know a relative stranger where reliable sources of background information and subsequent social support are less readily available.’

Marriage Foundation did not examine whether there was any difference between divorce rates for those who used relationship sites – like eharmony and Bumble – compared to so-called ‘hook-up sites’ – such as Tinder and Grinder – which tend to be more casual.

However previous research found that contrary to the image of ‘hook-up site’ users only looking for casual relationship, nine in 10, who met this way and were currently in a relationship, wanted to marry.

That survey, carried out by One Poll, asked 2,000 young unmarried adults about their attitudes towards tying the knot.

Of those who said they were in a relationship and had met using a ‘casual dating app’ such as Tinder and Grindr, 89% said they wanted to marry and four in five (80 per cent) expected to marry ‘at some point’. This compared with 84% and 77% respectively among those who met through long-term dating apps.

‘Perhaps also there is a tendency to overlook or be blind to shortcomings in the enthusiasm of finding a potential long-term mate; the “rose tinted spectacles” scenario,’ suggests Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of Marriage Foundation.

‘The antidote to this danger is surely to encourage “onliners” to undergo proper marriage prep before finally committing or tying the knot. In this way potential flaws are more likely to be exposed and so addressed in a managed and positive environment before they emerge after the wedding.’

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