People using dating apps to ‘hook up’ are more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and not use protection than those who meet in other ways, a study finds.
The increasing popularity of dating apps means that finding a new sexual partner is as easy as a few swipes on a screen – but researchers found this comes with risks.
A team from the Public Health Agency of Sweden surveyed more than 14,500 men and women aged 16 to 84 about the sexual behaviour, online dating and health.
They didn’t ask which apps or services people used, but found those turning to digital dating tools were more likely to have an STI and less likely to use a condom.
People using dating apps to ‘hook up’ are more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and not use protection than those who meet in other ways, study finds. Stock image
The goal of the study was to explore the extent to which finding sexual partners online was associated with risky behaviours, including unprotected sex.
Young people and men between the ages of 30 and 44 were the most likely to turn to dating apps to meet someone for a temporary ‘hook up’, the data revealed.
The team also discovered that regardless of age or gender, people using dating apps were also more likely to pay for or receive money as a compensation for sex.
Lead author, Charlotte Deogan, said campaigns to raise awareness of sexual health may be particularly important for men aged 30 to 44.
‘They’re less likely to attend sexual health clinics and more likely to engage in sexually risky behaviours with partners found online,’ she explained.
Of the 14,500 people surveyed by the team, 11 per cent of men said they’d used the internet to meet sexual partners and 7 per cent of women.
Among the questions on the survey, the team asked about sexual orientation, and found a higher proportion of LGBTQ+ people used dating apps than heterosexuals.
‘The highest proportion (67 per cent) of men having used the internet to meet sexual partners was reported by gay men 30–44 years of age,’ the team explained.
A team from the Public Health Agency of Sweden surveyed more than 14,500 men and women aged 16 to 84 about the sexual behaviour, online dating and health. Stock image
There was also a link to education, with university-educated women four times less likely to look to dating apps to find a partner than those without a degree.
Sweden makes for an interesting case study in the use of digital services for dating, according to the authors, as 99 per cent of adults use the web daily.
‘Online arenas may facilitate sexual encounters, but to what extent meeting partners online is associated with sexual risk behaviors and sexual health outcomes is still not fully explored among the Swedish general population,’ authors wrote.
There were limitations to the study, authors explained. This included the fact the survey only asked if people had ever used the internet to find a date, not how recent.
They also had no way to tell whether those responding were just as likely to engage in risky unprotected sex with partners they meet online as those they meet offline.
‘It remains unclear whether the Internet use is the cause or a marker for increased sexual risk,’ the team wrote.
HOW DID ONLINE DATING BECOME SO POPULAR?
The first ever incarnation of a dating app can be traced back to 1995 when Match.com was first launched.
The website allowed single people to upload a profile, a picture and chat to people online.
The app was intended to allow people looking for long-term relationships to meet.
eHarmony was developed in 2000 and two years later Ashley Madison, a site dedicated to infidelity and cheating, was first launched.
A plethora of other dating sites with a unique target demographic were set up in the next 10-15 years including: OKCupid (2004), Plenty of Fish (2006), Grindr (2009) and Happn (2013).
In 2012, Tinder was launched and was the first ‘swipe’ based dating platform.
After its initial launch it’s usage snowballed and by March 2014 there were one billion matches a day, worldwide.
In 2014, co-founder of Tinder, Whitney Wolfe Herd launched Bumble, a dating app that empowered women by only allowing females to send the first message.
The popularity of mobile dating apps such as Tinder, Badoo and more recently Bumble is attributable to a growing amount of younger users with a busy schedule.
In the 1990s, there was a stigma attached to online dating as it was considered a last-ditch and desperate attempt to find love.
This belief has dissipated and now around one third of marriages are between couples who met online.
A survey from 2014 found that 84 per cent of dating app users were using online dating services to look for a romantic relationship.
Twenty-four per cent stated that that they used online dating apps explicitly for sexual encounters.