U of S researcher studying effects of dating apps on mental health
SASKATOON -- A PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan is looking into how digital dating can affect mental health.
Brandon Sparks, who specializes in psychology, said there’s a lot of research on how dating apps are linked to higher risks of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, but that there’s a gap in research on how rejection on these apps can affect people.
“Traditionally in the dating market, it takes a while to meet people and get to know them and either get accepted or rejected. But, with dating apps, you can be rejected in very high magnitudes in a very short window of time, so I was curious to see how that sort of manifested itself,” Sparks said.
He surveyed about 350 students at the U of S to see their reasons for setting up an online dating profile, how they rate their success on these apps and their levels of depression and anxiety.
Alexandra Zidenberg, 27, has been using dating apps on and off for six years.
"It just kind of seems like what people do to date right now."
She spends about an hour a day on Tinder and Bumble.
According to Tinder, more than 50 million users worldwide swipe left or right more than two billion times a day.
Not all of Zidenberg’s experiences have been positive.
“There's definitely been a couple stretches of time where I have not met a lot of people or the people I met have not been good or there's been a little more harassment. It's really, really draining and I started to get very anxious and it became something that was causing me stress,” she said.
On Valentine’s Day, some dating apps report a spike in downloads.
Sparks said this could leave some people more vulnerable to rejection.
"When people view themselves as doing less well than their same-sex peers, so basically their competition, it’s related in both males and females to higher rates of depression and anxiety. But for men, and men only, it’s also related to less secure self-esteem,” he said.
Sparks said this often leads to men lashing out or being aggressive online.
This is something Zidenberg said she’s experienced.
“On Tinder, somebody made a joke or reference to oral sex and I did not respond well to that. And he told me that talking to me was the biggest waste of time in his entire day,” she said.
However, dating apps aren’t a waste of time for Zidenberg, who said her group of friends are a key support system for dealing with the occasional bad match.
Sparks said he hopes to continue his research to find out how factors like outside support systems can help mitigate the negative effects of dating apps.