Couples who meet online have happier marriages, study suggests

Contrary to the general perception that online relationships hardly end in a hapyy marriage, a new study has found that online daters tend to end up with a happier marriage with lower incidence of separations and divorces.

A study published, Monday, on Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, concluded that about 35 percent of subjects reported that they met their partners online. The online relationships that ended in marriage started through social networks and about 45 percent met through dating sites. The survey involved a sample of 19,131 individuals in the United States who got married between 2005 and 2012.

The research "Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues" was commissioned by eHarmony, a dating site that also plays as a matchmaker for those looking for lifetime partners. Marketing research firm Harris Interactive was tapped to do the survey.

The proponents of the study initially sent out invitations to over 470,000 individuals via e-mail but only 191,000 agreed to participate. The subjects were then screened using qualifying questions until they were trimmed a smaller number giving consistent answers.

"Surprisingly, we found that marriages that started online were associated with better outcomes," said John Cacioppo, a psychologist from the University of Chicago who led the study, in an interview with Nature.

The results of the study revealed that about 94 percent of marriages of couples who met online lasted at least until 2012 when the survey was conducted. It was 92 percent for those who met offline.

The incidence of marriage breakups was lower for those who met online at 5.96 percent while those who met offline was at 7.67 percent.  The statistics also showed that Asians and Hispanics tend to benefit more from online relationships. Those who were still married during the time of the survey and met online were generally happier and more satisfied than those who met offline.

"Laboratory research has shown that self-disclosures and affiliation are generally greater when strangers first meet on-line rather than face-to-face, and that the differences in self-disclosure can explain the differences in liking. Among on-line dating sites, it is also possible that the various matching algorithms may play a role in marital outcomes," the study revealed.

The study also concluded that eHarmony is nothing special over its competitors, although half of the online marriage reported during the survey came from users of the online matchmaking site and

To avoid bias, eHarmony agreed with the proponents that any result that might affect the dating site will still be published and all data will be made available.

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