Modern dating studies strive to answer some of life’s most pressing questions. Researchers seek to shed light on mysteries ranging from “How long do young people wait to have sex?” to “Does online dating work?

Our experts have kept a finger on the pulse of the dating industry by studying the latest relationship polls and online dating statistics, and now we’re going to share those insights with our readers.

Here’s a rundown of the most interesting, noteworthy, and surprising studies on dating, sex, and relationships.

1. Around 47% of Americans Say It’s Harder to Date Now

The rise of online dating has undeniably changed how single people navigate the dating scene and meet new people. In some ways, they have more romantic options available than ever before. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The Pew Research Center inquired into modern dating attitudes in the U.S. and found it was a mixed bag. Almost half of the surveyed daters agreed that it’s harder to date now than it was 10 years ago, and 67% of daters in the survey said their dating life wasn’t going well.

Photo of a computer

Online dating can offer a fast-paced solution for frustrated or isolated singles.

However, it’s not all bad news for 21st-century single people. Meeting a dating partner online is becoming increasingly common, particularly among young adults. Just over 20% of daters under 30 reported meeting a romantic partner online, and 28% of partnered adults who have been in a committed relationship less than three years said they met online.

2. Couples Who Meet Online are Less Likely to Divorce

In 2005, the University of Chicago funded a seven-year study on married couples who met online and offline. Marriage breakups were reported among 6% of couples who met online and 7.6% of couples who met offline.

Additionally, the researchers found that marital satisfaction was slightly higher among the couples who met online than couples who met offline.

3. Online Dating is Now Responsible for 22% of Weddings

The Knot is a popular wedding resource that has helped over 25 million newlyweds plan their big day. Every year, The Knot surveys upward of 10,000 of its newlyweds to find trends in their dating and engagement experience.

The Knot 2019 Jewelry and Engagement Study made headlines by proclaiming that online dating is now the most popular way to meet a spouse. According to the study, about 22% of newly married respondents said they met their partner online.

Photo of a family at a wedding

According to The Knot, more newlyweds currently meet online than through friends or at work.

The Pew Research Center has identified 20-somethings and LGBTQ+ singles as the groups that are most likely to meet a romantic partner online. About 21% of LGB respondents and 17% of respondents between 18 and 29 said they have gotten into a relationship thanks to online dating, while only 12% of U.S. adults said the same.

4. Over Half of Men Say They Get Too Few Messages Online

The online dating market has a roughly equal number of men and women, but there is an imbalance when it comes to online messaging. Single women typically receive high levels of attention on a dating platform, while single men struggle to compete with one another. And often do not get responses to their likes and messages.

About 57% of single men in a Pew survey said they do not receive enough messages on the typical dating site or app, and only 6% of men said they receive too many messages.

Of course, some female-friendly dating apps have aimed to overturn gender norms by providing a more equitable dating landscape. Bumble is a woman-led company that empowers women to make the first move by sending the first message to a man in her match list.

5. One-Third of Women Say They Get Too Many Messages

Online dating services provide an open forum where single people can form friendships and get in serious relationships. However, it can be difficult for an active online dater to focus on one potential match when they have too many dating options at their fingertips.

The free-for-all atmosphere can be particularly overwhelming to the average single woman because, taken as a whole, straight men tend to be more proactive about liking and messaging women on dating sites and apps.

Photo of a single woman

Single women typically have an abundance of potential match options in the online dating scene.

An OkCupid study of first messages found that straight women are 3.5 times less likely to start a conversation than straight men.

When asked to characterize their online dating inbox, 30% of single women said they get too many messages, while 45% said they get the right number of messages.

6. Responsiveness is an Attractive Quality in Online Daters

The swiping scene often gets vilified for promoting superficial judgments, but recent dating studies have actually discovered that physical attractiveness is not the biggest dealbreaker for online daters — responsiveness is.

A 2016 social psychology experiment had participants view responsive and unresponsive dating profiles and rank them in terms of desirability. The results were consistent in that a responsive online dating profile was more likely to be rated favorably than an unresponsive dating profile, even if the responsive person was less physically attractive than the unresponsive person.

It seems the phenomenon of ghosting has had a strong psychological impact on today’s online daters and encouraged them to favor responsive partners over unresponsive partners, regardless of physical attractiveness.

7. Men With Cats in Their Photos are Viewed as Less Desirable

A 2020 study from Colorado State University has proven that cat photos are about as damaging to an online dating profile as catfishing photos. The researchers showed women (between ages 18 and 24) photos of men with and without cats and found those without cats were much more likely to be positively rated and less likely to be ruled out as a potential partner.

When viewing a picture of a man alone, 40% of respondents said they’d rather not date him. When the respondents saw the same man with a cat, 45% said they wouldn’t date him.

Photo of a man with a cat

Cat photos may hurt a single man’s chances of making an online match.

Don’t fret too much over this dating study. If you’re a male cat owner, you can certainly still pick up dates or get in a dating relationship on an online dating site — you just may want to remove any photos of Mr. Mittens from your online dating profile to give yourself the best odds of having a woman swipe right.

8. Roughly 53% of Americans Say Online Dating is Safe

On the question of online dating safety, Americans seem to be split down the middle. The Pew Research Center polled U.S. adults in 2019 and reported that 53% of Americans agreed that online dating is a very safe or somewhat safe way to meet new people. On the other hand, 46% of Americans said it is somewhat unsafe or very unsafe.

However, when the dating study differentiated between people who have tried online dating and people who have never tried online dating, the numbers change dramatically. Only 29% of online daters said online dating is unsafe. Meanwhile a whopping 52% of respondents who said they had never used a dating site or app also said they think online dating is unsafe.

Fear of the unknown seems to be a driving force behind this question, and experienced online daters are less worried about the medium’s safety than outsiders are.

9. Singles Spend $146 Per Month on Dating Expenses

Being single isn’t always cheap, especially if you’re actively exploring the dating world. Dating can involve a lot of weekly costs, including buying drinks or dinners out and paying for an online dating subscription. Sure, you can save money on a free dating site or app, and maybe your date will pay for you when you go out, but looking your best still costs money and transportation isn’t always cheap.

Photo of a couple paying for a date

Dating expenses can pile up when a single person is actively courting multiple partners.

A 2018 study calculated the costs and reported that the average American’s dating expenses add up to $146 per month. The price tag varied from state to state with Wisconsin, Kansas, and Missouri among the cheapest places to go on a date. New York was ranked as the most expensive city for dating.

10. The Average Age for Losing One’s Virginity is 17

The Center for Disease Control has done research into sexual activity in the U.S. in an effort to monitor the potential spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Its annual reports indicate that the age a person engages in vaginal intercourse for the first time has not changed much over the last decade.

In 2002, the mean age for first intercourse was 17.4 years for women and 17.0 years for men. In 2015, the mean age was 17.3 years for women and 17.0 years for men. By all accounts, 17 seems to be the magic number for a sexual awakening.

Something to keep in mind is that this statistic is based on adults self-reporting when they lost their virginity, so it may skew slightly younger than the reality.

11. About 1 in 8 Millennials Report Being Virgins at 26

Millennials seem to be the waiting generation when it comes to dating. Not only are they waiting longer to get married than previous generations, but they’re also waiting longer to have sex. A dating study of 16,000 people born between 1989 and 1990 found that 12.5% of participants reported they had not had sex by the time they were 26.

An overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents who had lost their virginity had done so in their teenage years. Just 1% of respondents reported losing their virginity between ages 23 and 26.

12. Tinder’s Casual Daters Have Fewer Privacy Concerns

Since 2012, Tinder has become the single most popular dating app in the world with over 400 million downloads and 55 billion matches to its name. And it’s still growing.

Tinder is playing an increasingly important role in social dynamics and dating experiences, so it has become a hot research topic for social psychologists. Social Media + Society published a 2017 study that looked into how individual motivations impacted a Tinder user’s privacy concerns on the dating app.

Photo of a guy swiping on Tinder

Tinder acts wingman for single people seeking casual hookups and long-term relationships.

The Tinder study found a stark difference between casual daters and serious daters in terms of their conscientiousness.

“Individuals on Tinder who use the app for hooking up have significantly lower privacy concerns than those who do not use it for hooking up,” the researchers concluded. “By contrast, the more that respondents use Tinder for friendship, self validation, and travel experiences, the higher they score on social privacy concerns.”

13. Teens Who Don’t Date Report Feeling Less Depressed

The Journal of School Health talked to nearly 600 high school sophomore students to learn about the dating habits and attitudes of today’s youth. The results portrayed a generally positive picture of non dating students in the U.S.

Teenagers who reported that they did not date were less likely to show signs of depression than their dating peers. Non dating students also received higher teacher ratings for leadership and social skills.

Stereotypes often cast a non dating student as a nerd or social misfit, but the data shows that not having a romantic relationship may actually be a good thing for a teenager’s mental health and happiness.

14. Jealousy & Verbal Conflict are Tied to Teen Dating Violence

The National Institute of Justice recently published a detailed report on teen dating violence (TDV). It provides insight into how prevalent abusive relationships are in young adults and what factors contribute to negative and harmful behaviors in one’s teenage years.

“Teens who report dating violence also report more controlling behaviors, jealousy, verbal conflict, and sexual nonexclusivity (cheating) than teens who do not experience any form of dating violence,” the researchers said. “Teens who do not report TDV report more trust, sexual intimacy, and commitment.”

Photo of a fighting couple

Teenage relationships can be fraught with painful drama or abuse.

A similar study found that dating teens who reported less controlling behaviors in a romantic relationship were 39% less likely to report being the victim of psychological abuse and 46% less likely to report experiencing physical or sexual abuse in the last year.

A 2010 study of 1,200 young adults reported that 70% of perpetrators of teen dating violence do not continue to be abusive in subsequent relationships.

15. Over 80% of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

Dating experiences can differ widely based on a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation. A single man may say his biggest worry about online dating is meeting a catfisher, while a single woman may say her biggest worry is being sexually assaulted or harassed.

Stop Street Harassment conducted an online survey in 2017 and found a distinct gender difference in responses about sexual harassment. A staggering 81% of women who responded to the survey said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their life. Only 43% of men said the same.

Women in the survey were nearly twice as likely as men to report experiencing cybersexual harassment (41% vs 22%) and about four times as likely to be a survivor of sexual assault (27% vs 7%).

16. About 1 in 4 Daters Admit to Having Revenge Sex

Revenge sex is a way of getting back at a current partner or an ex by becoming intimate with another person. It could be an eye-for-an-eye situation as in “he cheated on her, so now she’s cheating on him.” Or it could be more about emotional validation or sexual frustration.

A 2014 study of breakup behavior determined that revenge sex is fairly common. Approximately 23% of respondents said they had engaged in revenge sex, and another 35% said they had experienced rebound sex after a breakup.

17. Singles Who Use the Word “Love” are More Successful

Plenty of Fish has been in the online dating industry since 2003, and it has provided some good insights into what makes a match last. One of its most interesting studies dissected the word choice in over 1 million dating profiles to see which words prove most successful on the online dating website.

The research showed the relationship-oriented words — such as love, heart, children, and romantic — were among the most promising for serious daters. Interest-based words — such as travel, music, dinner, and humor — were also among the top results.

Plus, women who used the word “relationship” in their POF dating profile were shown to be 16% more likely to get into a relationship than other POF users.

Photo collage of POF couples

Plenty of Fish creates more than 57 million matches per week.

The POF study gave evidence that online daters who are forthright and emotionally available in their online dating profile are most likely to find a match. It’s not just about saying the right words, of course — singles have to be able to live up to their online dating profile in real life to truly impress a new person.

A solid 84% of surveyed POF users said they’re looking for authenticity in their online dating prospects.

18. Online Swiping & Messaging Increased During COVID-19

The Kinsey Institute surveyed American singles and couples during the coronavirus pandemic to see how their dating and relationship habits have changed over time. The researchers told us one-third of singles reported sending messages more frequently on a dating site or app during the early months of the pandemic.

Morning Consult came to a similar conclusion after polling more than 2,000 active online daters in April 2020. According to the poll, 53% of online daters characterized themselves as using dating sites and apps more during the pandemic than before. In fact, 48% said they were visiting a dating app or site on a daily basis.

19. More Online Dating Leads to More Interracial Marriage

Online dating has rapidly grown in popularity over the last few decades. The Pew Research Center saw online dating usage tripled among young adults from 2013 to 2016. That is a fundamental change in how young people meet one another, and researchers are conducting study after study to track its impact on society.

An Austrian study discovered a link between online dating and interracial marriage, both of which have been on the rise in Western society.

Photo of an interracial family

Online dating services have given a single person access to a more diverse dating pool.

This 2017 dating study’s computer model showed that the introduction of online dating contributes to rapid social integration, which means people of different ages, races, and backgrounds have an easier time mixing and mingling. That environment naturally correlates to a greater likelihood of interracial relationships and interracial marriages taking place.

“We used to marry people to whom we were somehow connected. Since we were more connected to people similar to us, we were also likely to marry someone from our own race,” the researchers explained in their abstract. “However, online dating has changed this pattern; people who meet online tend to be complete strangers.”

20. LGBTQ+ People Use Dating Apps More Frequently

The Pew Research Center broke down American online dating usage by age, education, gender, race, and sexual orientation and found by far the highest usage was among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults. The study reported that 55% of LGB people said they had tried online dating, while only 30% of all U.S. adults said the same.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual singles are also more likely than their straight counterparts to have found a dating partner online. Over 20% of LGB respondents said they had gotten into a committed relationship with someone they met on an online dating website or app. Only 11% of straight respondents reported such a success.

In 2017, a Stanford University study estimated that 65% of same-sex couples and 39% of heterosexual couples who met that year were introduced through an online dating service.

21. Singles Spend Under 2 Minutes Looking at a Dating Profile

In 2012, Tobii Technology partnered with a research firm to conduct an eye-tracking study on online daters. Its technology allowed experts to see the swiping scene through the average user’s eyes. Researchers asked 40 participants to swipe through dating profiles and tracked their eye movements as they did so.

The study found that both men and women tend to focus on the picture more than any other part of the online dating profile, but women view each profile for a longer amount of time than men do.

Women in the study spent an average of 84 seconds viewing each dating profile, while the men in the study spent an average of 58 seconds on each dating profile.

Photo of a swiping app

A study found that women spend an average of 84 seconds viewing a dating profile.

The eye-tracking study provided a detailed look into how men and women view dating profiles differently. The male participants made more snap judgments based on a photo, while the female participants displayed a more methodical approach to online dating.

When assessing the gaze patterns data, the researchers found that male users spent 65% more time viewing a potential partner’s photo and 50% less time looking at the overall dating profile than female users did.

Studies Show a Diverse & Fast-Changing Dating Scene

Over the years, researchers have tackled all sorts of topics regarding dating, relationships, and sex and come to science-based conclusions about how people connect with one another.

Hopefully, this overview of the top dating studies in the field has shed some light on the newest trends and quirks of the modern dating market. The numbers seem to support the industry consensus that online dating is the future, but they also show generational shifts in opinions about sex and relationships that can complicate the journey to a happily-ever-after ending.

It’s worth exploring the latest dating studies to get a handle on what’s going on in the dating world and what you can do to get the results you desire. So study up!