Couples who meet online and get married are slightly less likely to divorce than couples who first meet face-to-face, new research finds.The study, a generally representative look at American couples married between 20, found that virtual meetings are becoming more of a norm: More than a third of married couples in that time met on the Internet.These couples tended to be happier in their relationships than couples who met offline, the researchers report this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Moreover, analyses of breakups indicated that marriages that began in an online meeting were less likely to end in separation or divorce than marriages that began in an offline venue." [6 Scientific Tips for a Successful Marriage] The study was funded by the dating site e Harmony.
Independent statisticians oversaw the data, and e Harmony agreed that the results could be published regardless of how the data reflected on the website.
Online romance In their survey of 19,131 people (just one person from each married couple participated), Cacioppo and his colleagues found 92 percent were still married in 2012, 7.44 percent were separated or divorced and about 0.5 percent were widowed.
Of the approximately one-third of married couples who met online, 45 percent met on online dating sites (the most popular were e Harmony and Match.com, which were responsible for half of the dating-site matches).
There were differences between people who met online and those who met offline — men, 30- to 49-year-olds, Hispanics, the employed and the economically better-off were all more likely to turn to the Internet for dates.
Nevertheless, the differences in marital success and satisfaction held up even after the researchers controlled for year of marriage, gender, age, education, income, ethnicity, employment and religion.
"The observed differences in marital outcomes may not simply be the result of selection biases based on demographics," Cacioppo told Live Science.
The explanation for the differences remains a mystery.
Another 21 percent met on social networks, while the rest got to know each other from a mixture of blogs, gaming sites, chat rooms, discussion groups and other online communities.
Of the people who met offline, work was the most popular place to find a spouse, with 21 percent of couples reporting office romance.
Meeting through friends was second, at 19 percent, and school came in third, at 11 percent.