Couples who meet online are more likely to divorce in first three years of marriage

Couples who meet online are more likely to divorce in first three years of marriage
Social networks play an important role in supporting couples during the initial years of marriage

Divorce rates are six times higher in the early years of marriage for couples who met online than in those who met at university or through friends and family, a new study has found.

A survey of 2,000 ever-married adults aged 30 and over found that couples who met online since the year 2000 had a 12 per cent risk of divorce in the first three years of marriage, compared to two per cent for those who met via social connections.

Marriage Foundation, the charity that commissioned the research, said the findings show that social networks play an important role in supporting couples in the early years of marriage.

According to the study, the disparity in divorce rates remains until up to 10 years of marriage.

Of those that met their partners online, 17 per cent had gotten divorced after seven years, compared to 10 per cent of couples who had met through mutual connections.

“However, by 10 years of marriage, those meeting through the workplace appear to have the highest rate of divorce at 24 per cent, compared to 20 per cent of those who met online, 19 per cent who met in a bar or restaurant, and 15 per cent of those who met via family, friends or neighbours,” the study said.

The research did not make a distinction between couples who met online through dating apps such as eHarmony and Bumble, or platforms most widely seen as “hook-up apps”, like Grindr or Tinder.

Harry Benson, the research director at Marriage Foundation, said the findings are “troubling”.

“It suggests that in the early years of marriage, couples who meet this way might lack sufficient social capital or close support networks around them to deal with all the challenges they face when compared to those who met via friends, family or neighbours.

“Over time this disparity disappears, but the question is why does it exist in the first place?” he said.

Savanta ComRes, the market research consultancy which carried out the survey, said couples who meet online are marrying as “relative strangers” as lack of mutual connections makes it more difficult to gather information about one another.

Additionally, those who meet online must form social bonds with their partner’s family and friends “from scratch rather than being well-established over years”, the report said.

“Our findings in no way undermines or diminishes 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,” Benson said.

According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, the number of people who are choosing to get married or enter into civil partnership has gradually been declining over the past decade.

In 2019, 50.4 per cent of the population in England and Wales were in a legally recognised partnership.