Adults with internet access at home, recent research deems, are more likely to have romantic relationships than those cut off from the virtual realm.
"Although prior research on the social impacts of Internet use has been rather ambiguous about the social cost of time spent online, our research suggests that Internet access has an important role to play in helping Americans find mates," said Michael J. Rosenfeld of Stanford University and the lead author of the study.
According to the study, 82.2 percent of participants who had Internet access at home also had a spouse or romantic partner, compared to a 62.8-percent partnership rate for adults who did not have Internet access.
The paper uses data from Wave I of the How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST) survey, a nationally representative survey of 4,002 adults, of whom 3,009 had a spouse or romantic partner.
Rosenfeld and Reuben J. Thomas of City University of New York, also found that the Internet is the one social arena that is unambiguously gaining importance over time as a place where couples meet.
"With the meteoric rise of the Internet as a way couples have met in the past few years, and the concomitant recent decline in the central role of friends, it is possible that in the next several years the Internet could eclipse friends as the most influential way Americans meet their romantic partners, displacing friends out of the top position for the first time since the early 1940s," Rosenfeld said.
The study also found that the Internet is especially important for finding potential partners in groups where the supply is small or difficult to identify such as in the gay, lesbian, and middle-aged heterosexual communities.
"Couples who meet online are much more likely to be same-sex couples, and somewhat more likely to be from different religious backgrounds," Rosenfeld said.
The findings of the study were presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.