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Social anxiety , depression, and the use of dating apps: What is the connection?

A study shows that social anxiety and depression contribute to a greater use of dating apps and influence what individuals expect to learn from them.

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Data published in February this year by the Pew Research Center shows that as many as 30 percent of adults have used a dating site or app in the United States.

In the first quarter of 2020, the most common of these apps, Tinder, had more than 6 million users, according to a Statista survey.

For using a dating app, there are various explanations. Now, a new study from Ryerson University in Toronto , Canada, examines the connection between social anxiety , depression, and dating apps in particular.

There is a link between social anxiety and depression and a more systematic use of dating apps, according to this report.

“With increased symptoms of social anxiety and depression, women may be even more likely to turn to technology for social connection, especially if alternative forms of social contact are reduced due to social avoidance.”

– Senior author Martin Antony, from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada

The study appears in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Why do people use dating apps?

Previous research indicates that there are six things that individuals who use Tinder aim to accomplish. These “Motives of Tinder” are:

  • love
  • casual sex
  • ease of communication
  • self-worth validation
  • thrill of excitement
  • trendiness

The prevailing theory tested in the new research is the optimistic correlation with a greater use of dating apps between social anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the researchers predicted positive associations between depression and social anxiety and a preference for:

  • ease of communication for men, due to the anxiety associated with asking potential partners for a date, traditionally perceived as a male responsibility
  • love, equally for both genders
  • self-worth validation, equally for both genders
  • the thrill of excitement, especially for men
  • casual sex, especially for men

The research authors also projected a negative correlation for both sexes between social anxiety , depression, and contacting dating app matches.

The study ‘s findings

For the research , a total of 374 people who use dating apps were recruited and responded to questions asked through the Mechanical Turk platform of Amazon.

There were no conditions for inclusion or exclusion, and each person received $1 for taking part in the study.

The researchers asked participants to fill out the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) 17-question, in which an individual explains the anxiety they have encountered over the past week in social situations. The SPIN survey is known by researchers for its effectiveness as a psychometric measure.

In addition, the similarly well-regarded 21-question Depression Anxiety Stress Scales survey for assessing anxiety, symptoms of depression, and stress was completed by individuals.

The Tinder Motives Scale survey was also completed by participants, which tracked the significance of five of the six Tinder motives to the individual. Trendiness was not included by the study team because they found the survey inadequate to assess its importance.

The researchers evaluated the use of dating apps by people through the Online Dating Inventory questionnaire to determine their use and actions.

The researchers found that social anxiety and depression are not synonymous and are correlated with different reasons for using dating apps or not.

The general hypothesis of the researchers was considered correct: social anxiety and depression tend to be associated with higher use of dating apps. The authors of the study drew a number of conclusions beyond that.

They found that:

  • Social anxiety and depression are associated with the use of dating apps for ease of communication by both genders, though the effect is more pronounced for women.
  • Women with social anxiety are more likely to be interested in obtaining love through dating apps. Depression did not affect whether people were looking for this, for either men or women.
  • Dating apps are used for self-worth validation by people of both genders with social anxiety. This was also true of people with depression, with a stronger effect in women than men.
  • Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, there was a positive link between social anxiety and the thrill of excitement for women, though not for women living with depression, and not for men.
  • There was an association between social anxiety in men and women with an effort to obtain casual sex. This was also true in people living with depression, with a stronger effect in women.

The researchers also found a negative association between male social anxiety and depression and the possibility that a person who turned out to be a match will actually be contacted. The chance that a woman would initiate communication was not influenced by their degree of depression at all.

The authors of the study point out that they can not understand whether social anxiety and depression contribute to greater use of dating apps or the other way around, indicating that further studies will benefit from this open issue.

Obianuju Chukwu

She has a degree in pharmacy and has worked in the field as a pharmacist in a hospital. Teaching, blogging, and producing scientific articles are some of her interests. She enjoys writing on various topics relating to health and medicine, including health and beauty-related natural treatments, the nutritional worth of various foods, and mental wellness.