More than a third of marriages from 2005-12 began online, and these online couples may have happier marriages, U.S. researchers suggest.
Lead author John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago, and colleagues found a wide variety of venues, both online and offline, where people met to date and marry from 2005-12.
Cacioppo led a team that examined the results of a representative sample of 19,131 people who responded to a survey by Harris Interactive about their marriages and satisfaction. The survey was based on questions about their happiness with their marriage and degree of affection, communication and love for each other.
About 45 percent met through an online dating site. People who met online were more likely to be older -- 30-39 was the largest age group represented -- employed and had a higher income. The group was diverse racially and ethnically.
Those who met offline found marriage partners at places including work, school, social gatherings, clubs and bars, and places of worship.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found among the least successful marriages were those in which people met at bars, through blind dates and in online communities that function as virtual worlds.
The study also found marriage breakups were reported in about 6 percent of the people who met online, compared with 7.6 percent of the people who met offline. Marriages for those who met online reported a mean score of 5.64 on a satisfaction survey, compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline.
The study did not determine why relationships that started online were more successful, the researchers said.
The survey was commissioned by eHarmony.com, and Cacioppo is paid as a scientific adviser for eHarmony, a statement said. Joining him as authors in the study were Stephanie Cacioppo, a research associate and assistant professor in psychology at the University of Chicago; Gian Gonzaga, a researcher with Gestalt Research who is a former director of the eHarmony Labs; and statisticians Elizabeth Ogburn, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Tyler VanderWeele, a professor in epidemiology and biostatistics at Harvard.
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