The new findings uncover the mental health toll of online dating, who may be most susceptible, and another surprise that I wasn’t prepared for.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but the perennial search for love and romance lives on. If in doubt, consider the popularity of today’s dating apps. Three in ten U.S. adults have used them, according to a survey in 2022 by the Pew Research Center.

Now, new findings by FHE Health, a national behavioral health provider based in Florida, have revealed the mental health toll of these apps and who may be most susceptible. As someone who has used dating apps myself, I found the following three takeaways surprising and a bit disconcerting….

1) A clear majority of online daters (61.4 percent) have had to take a break from dating apps for mental health reasons. The proportion of men who said so (62 percent) was roughly the same as that of the women who said so (61 percent)—although, interestingly, a bit higher.

The survey did not ask for specifics about the mental health factors that prompted these timeouts. However, the respondents’ answers elsewhere may contain clues as to what factors played a role:

  • Increased feelings of loneliness and isolation – 23 percent and 41 percent of online daters said dating apps “significantly” or “moderately” contributed to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Stress and anxiety – 15.5 percent of men and 8.7 percent of women had experienced stress and anxiety from their use of dating apps. Roughly the same percent (39.3 and 40.5 percent) reported experiencing stress and anxiety “occasionally.”
  • Concerns about safety – About one in two people said that a dating app had put them in a situation where they felt unsafe. A bigger majority said they had dealt with other online dating stressors such as inappropriate or offensive behavior, pressures to engage in ways that made them feel uncomfortable or having to block other users.

2) Contrary to the assumption that dating apps more often attract those who are looking for a long-term relationship, most online daters in this survey said they were looking for a casual situation (49 percent). A long-term relationship was the second most common aspiration among online daters, but it trailed casual dating by a distance: Only 22 percent of respondents said they were seeking a long-term relationship, as opposed to the 49 percent who were looking to date casually.

3) A whole lot of married people are on dating apps. 73.4 percent of respondents said they were married. Meanwhile, 96.7 percent said they were active on dating apps at the time of our survey.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that casual dating was the #1 goal of respondents, or that Tinder, the site more typically associated with hook-ups, was their most popular app? Possibly. (Bumble and Hinge were the second and third most popular apps.)

Casual daters were also the most likely of any dating group to recommend online dating. Those looking for a long-term relationship, on the other hand? Not so much. In fact, they were the least likely to recommend dating apps.

One implication of this finding may be that, while online dating seems to take a toll on most, some online daters may be more susceptible—specifically, those looking for a long-term relationship. Even so, the hopeless romantics among us need not despair. Just as there is an app for everything, some dating apps will cater better to those in search of a serious relationship.

Besides, there’s always the chance that you could meet someone in person.