Social anxiety, depression, and dating app use: What is the link?

Social anxiety, depression, and dating app use: What is the link?

Written by Robby Berman on November 11, 2020 — Fact checked by Hannah Flynn, MS

A study finds that social anxiety and depression lead to a greater use of dating apps and affect what people hope to gain from them.


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Pew Research Center data released in February this year indicate that, in the United States, as many as 30% of adults have used a dating site or app.

According to a Statista survey, in the first quarter of 2020, Tinder, the most popular of these apps, had more than 6 million subscribers.

There are numerous reasons for using a dating app. Now, a new study from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, looks specifically at the link between social anxiety, depression, and dating apps.

According to this research, there is a link between social anxiety and depression and a more extensive use of dating apps.

“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 suggests there are six things people who use Tinder hope to attain. These “Tinder motives” are:

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

The prevailing theory tested in the new research is the positive link between social anxiety and depression with a greater use of dating apps. In addition, the researchers predicted positive associations between social anxiety and depression and a desire 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 study authors also predicted a negative association between social anxiety, depression, and contacting dating app matches equally for both genders.

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