New research suggests that one in three people now meet their spouses online, and that those marriages are more satisfying and less likely to end in divorce than those that begin in traditional, offline venues.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and funded by eHarmony, examined the marital status and satisfaction of 19,131 people who tied the knot between 2005 and 2012.
Of the nearly 20,000 respondents, 35 percent met their spouses online. Within that group, nearly half met through online dating sites, "whose number of users has increased dramatically just over the past decade," according to the research. Others reported meeting their spouses through social media, chat rooms, and e-mail, among other online venues.
And while the research found that nearly 8 percent of marriages initiated offline ended in breakups, couples who met online reported lower rates of separation and divorce -- 6 percent.
"What is clear from this research is that a surprising number of Americans now meet their spouse on-line," the research states, and "Meeting a spouse on-line is, on average, associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction and lower rates of marital break-up than meeting a spouse through traditional (off-line) venues."
The authors point to previous research that indicates that people may be more honest when interacting online to explain the findings. Also, the pool of prospective partners is likely larger online, and those on online dating sites may be more focused on finding a long-term mate.
"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,” lead author John Cacioppo said in a press release.
The study notes that the majority of Americans do still meet their spouses offline, though some venues are associated with more satisfying marriages than others. Those who met in school, at social gatherings or places of worship or grew up together reported greater marital satisfaction than those who met at a bar, work, or on a blind date.
“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.”