Dating Application Use and Sexual Risk Behavior Among Young Adults
Cell phone-based dating applications (apps) are increasingly popular in the USA. However, there is a paucity of research regarding dating app use among young heterosexual adults. This study examined the prevalence of dating application use and its connections with sexual behavior among young heterosexual adults. Five hundred nine heterosexual cisgender undergraduate students aged 18–25 completed an online survey assessing trait impulsivity, dating app use and motivations for using dating apps, sexual behavior, and demographics. 39.5% of the participants reported using dating apps. Individuals who used dating apps had higher rates of sexual risk behaviors in the past 3 months, including sex after using drugs or alcohol, and unprotected sex (anal or vaginal), and more lifetime sexual partners. When controlling for demographics and impulsivity, individuals who used dating applications were twice as likely to have had unprotected sex in the past 3 months, but were not significantly more likely to have had multiple partners within the past 3 months. In an exploratory analysis controlling for demographics and impulsivity, dating app use predicted the number of lifetime sexual partners. This study documented an association between dating app use and sexual risk behaviors among young heterosexual adults. Results suggest potential targets for intervention, including interventions that address sexual health information, and the dissemination of sexual health information through dating apps themselves.
KeywordsSexual risk behavior Heterosexual Young adults Dating application App Mobile Technology
Sexually transmitted infection
Men who have sex with men
Human immunodeficiency virus
Global positioning system
All parties who have contributed significantly to this work have been listed as authors, and all authors have reviewed and approved the publication of this manuscript. An oral presentation of this study was given at the 37th annual meeting and scientific sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Bilton, N. (2014). Tinder, the fast-growing dating app, taps an age-old truth. New York: The New York Times, Fashion & Style Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/30/fashion/tinder-the-fast-growing-dating-app-taps-an-age-old-truth.html.Google Scholar
- Buhi, E. R., Klinkenberger, N., McFarlane, M., Kachur, R., Daley, E. M., Baldwin, J., et al. (2013). Evaluating the internet as a sexually transmitted disease risk environment for teens: Findings from the communication, health, and teens study. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 40(7), 528–533.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2015). Adolescents, technology, and reducing risk for HIV, STDs and pregnancy. Atlanta, GA: United States Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
- Dir, A. L., Cyders, M. A., Riley, E. N., & Smith, G. T. (2015). Tinder use and association with problematic alcohol use and sexual hookups among college females. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39(6).Google Scholar
- Dredge, S. (2015). Tinder hits back at research claiming 42% of its users have partners. London: The Guardian Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/08/tinder-hits-back-research-users-partners-married.Google Scholar
- Freier, A. (2015). Tinder mobile app statistics and revenue. Business of Apps. Retrieved from: http://www.businessofapps.com/tinder-mobile-app-statistics-and-revenue/.
- Gavin, L., MacKay, A. P., Brown, K., Harrier, S., Ventura, S. J., Kann, L., et al. (2009). Sexual and reproductive health of persons aged 10–24 years—United States, 2002–2007: Department of Health & Human Services. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
- Gottfredson, M. R., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Hollander, M., & Wolfe, D. A. (1999). Nonparametric statistical methods (2nded ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Isaac, M. (2016). Grindr sells stake to Chinese company. New York: The New York Times, Technology Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/12/technology/grindr-sells-stake-to-chinese-company.html?_r=2.Google Scholar
- Mohdin, A. (2015). Dating apps like Tinder are being blamed for spreading sexually-transmitted diseases. Quartz. Retrieved from: http://qz.com/538776/dating-apps-like-tinder-are-being-blamed-for-spreading-sexually-transmitted-diseases/.
- Patton, J. H., Stanford, M. S., & Barratt, E. S. (1995). Factor structure of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51, 768–774. https://doi.org/10.1002/1097-4679(199511)51:6_768::AIDJCLP2270510607_3.0.CO;2-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Smith, A. (2016). 15% of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
- Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2016). 5 facts about online dating. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
- Smith, A., & Duggan, M. (2013). Online dating & relationships. Washington, DC: Pew Research center, Internet, Science, and Technology.Google Scholar