New study links swipe-based dating apps to poor mental health

Research by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has found people using swipe-based dating apps (SBDAs) – where users ‘swipe’ the screen to either like or dislike another user’s profile – experience especially higher rates of psychological distress and probable depression than non-users.

Published in BMC Psychology today , the study found that dating app use is common. Whilst 40% of current or past users felt that swipe-based dating apps had a positive impact on their self-esteem, current dating app users were two and half times more likely to report psychological distress and twice as likely to report probable depression.

The online survey of 437 Australians compared the impact of dating habits on the mental health of both SBDA and non-app users.

Dr Sabrina Pit, one of the lead researchers with co-affiliation to both universities, said the findings highlight that dating apps with swiping functions have a complex impact on the psychological well-being of users.

“We found an increased frequency of use and longer duration of use were both associated with greater psychological distress and depression,” said Dr Pit.

“People who were currently using dating apps for a year or more were three and half times likely to be distressed and four times more likely to report probable depression.”

Dr Pit said the Australian population of SBDA users is growing and further research into dating apps and mental health outcomes is needed.

“We’re calling for app developers to take a more active role in the promotion of positive mental health messages, particularly on swipe-based dating applications,” said Dr Pit.

Key findings:

  • 20% of current dating app users reported significantly higher psychological distress as a result of app use (vs 8% of people who did not use a dating app).
  • 19% of current dating app users reported significantly higher depressive symptoms as a result of app use (vs 9% of people who did not use a dating app).
  • People who used dating apps daily were 4 times more likely to report psychological distress or depressive symptoms than those who never used a dating app.
  • 40% of current or past SBDA users reported app interaction had a positive impact on their self-esteem.
  • 39% of current or past dating app users said they had previously entered into a serious relationship with someone they had met on a SBDA.
  • 77% of current and past SBDA users said they had met people face-to-face through an app, and 26% had met more than five people.

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