Social anxiety and depression are related to the use of dating apps, research finds

Key points

  • A new study found that there is a positive correlation between anxiety and depression symptoms and the use of dating apps.
  • The research adds more context to our relationship with online dating apps and social media platforms, which are increasingly associated with poor mental health outcomes.

A new study found that people who regularly use dating apps may experience more symptoms of social anxiety and depression.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal Internet psychology, behavior and social networking, The study assessed the relationship between social anxiety, depression, and the use of dating apps.

Ariella Lenton-Brym, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Ryerson University, said: “This study empirically proves for the first time that there is a positive correlation between the use of dating apps and social anxiety and depression symptoms.” She pointed out, “Because of us. The results of the study are cross-sectional. It is important to note that we cannot make any causal conclusions about the relationship between these variables.”

Research result

The study evaluated online surveys that examined the use of psychopathology and dating apps in 374 people. “Social anxiety and depression symptoms are positively correlated with the participants’ use of the dating app,” Lenton-Brym said. The study also found that among men, “symptoms of social anxiety and depression indicate a lower likelihood of starting contact with dating app matching,” she said.

Ariella Lenton-Brym, PhD student

Although men with social anxiety/depression often use dating apps, they may not be able to translate this frequent use of dating apps into actual social interactions.

— Ariella Lenton-Brym, PhD student

She said the findings about men are particularly interesting and raise a broader question: Do people with high levels of social anxiety/depression use the “social benefits” provided by dating apps more than less anxious people? ?

“If so, do they unnecessarily expose themselves to the potentially harmful consequences of using dating apps?” Lenton-Brym said. “Our research did not answer the last question, but I hope to explore more in the future.”

The data found that even if women have low levels of social anxiety and depression, they are less likely to actively contact dating apps. “In other words, there is a floor effect: since the probability of women initiating contact is already low, as the social anxiety and/or depressive symptoms in our sample increase, this probability will not decrease,” Lenton-Brym said.

The study also pointed out that past studies have found that women use technology more for social communication than men. The researchers wrote: “As social anxiety and depression symptoms increase, women may be more likely to resort to technology to establish social connections, especially if other forms of social contact are reduced due to social avoidance.”

The study emphasized that it only found a positive correlation between social anxiety/depressive symptoms and the use of dating apps. Researchers cannot determine whether people with more symptoms of social anxiety and/or depression are more likely to use dating apps. They also found no causal evidence that people became more socially anxious due to the use of dating apps.

Why might the use of dating apps be related to anxiety and depression?

Soltana Nosrati of LCSW, a social worker at Novant Health, said that although the study did not establish causality, the use of dating apps can cause anxiety and depression.

“If you go to a bar and you notice a man, you think he is very sexy, and you look at him and he a little ignores you, it is a kind of rejection,” she explained. But with a dating app, you will see dozens of people, and you will only “match” those whose profiles you like also like you.

Nosrati says that if you never match with someone you like, “it feels like being rejected constantly.” “People who think they are rejected are more likely to feel anxious or frustrated when using these apps.”

If people see rejection or lack of matching as individuals, dating apps can also hurt people’s self-esteem. “It is a mistake to let this completely unfamiliar external website determine your value,” Nosrati said.

Soltana Nosrati, LCSW

If you view these sites as a way to meet a group of different people from different backgrounds, and this does not necessarily reflect you as a person, then you are much less likely to be affected.

—Soltana Nosrati, LCSW

Nosrati said that apps are not inherently bad, and they allow many people to safely meet and interact with others during the COVID-19 pandemic. But she recommends that users of dating apps, especially those with social anxiety or depression, use the app as a way to “fine-tune your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.”

“So if you are not used to meeting people, it is a good idea to have a series of blind dates, and you can get used to the idea of ​​meeting people,” she said. “Rather than treating this app as a way to solve relationships, it’s better to enjoy it. The more fun you have, the less pressure you put on yourself, the easier it is.”

What this means to you

If you are struggling with social anxiety or depression, use dating apps consciously. Nosrati pointed out that without the app, you might go to a bar to meet people. But you don’t go to the bar every night. You may go once a week or several times a month. Treat the same with your dating app use.

Try not to spend more than 15 to 20 minutes a day swiping on the app or looking for new matches. If the app makes you more anxious or prevents you from doing other favorite things, then it also indicates that your use may be unhealthy.