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How swipe-based dating apps are impacting your mental health
Online dating has evolved, but at what cost?
- Some dating apps allow individuals to interact and form romantic/sexual connections before meeting face to face with the ability to "swipe" on the screen to either accept or reject another user's profile. Popular swipe-based apps include Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid.
- Research by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has linked the experience of swipe-based dating apps to higher rates of psychological distress and/or depression.
- Not all time spent on these apps is damaging, however. Up to 40 percent of current users say they previously entered a serious relationship with someone they met through one of these apps.
The last decade has seen a rapid rise in online dating, and with it, a whole new way of having fun and finding the one. Tracking the "evolution of online dating," we learn that it actually started back in 1995 with the launch of Match.com.
Since then, swipe-based dating apps have taken over the online dating scene. These apps are a platform for individuals to interact and form romantic/sexual connections before meeting face to face with potential partners. What sets them apart from other online dating apps is the feature of "swiping" on the screen to either accept or reject another user's profile. Some of the most common apps that use this method are Tinder, Bumble, Happn, and OkCupid.
How swipe-based dating apps negatively impact your mental health
Many people who use swipe-based dating apps report feeling psychological distress and depressive symptoms.
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Research by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has linked the experience of swipe-based dating apps to higher rates of psychological distress and/or depression.
An online survey (published in BMC Psychology) of over 430 individuals compared the impact of dating habits on the mental health of people who use swipe-based dating apps and those who don't.
The measures used during this evaluation were the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, the Generalised Anxiety Disorder-2 scale, the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. An analysis of variance (a tool used in statistics that splits the data into two parts: systematic factors and random factors) was then used to consider all four mental health scores together.
High psychological distress levels among swipe-based dating app users.
20 percent of participants who use swipe-based dating apps reported a significantly higher level of psychological distress compared to those who didn't use these apps.
Sabrina Pit, one of the researchers on the project, explains: "We found an increased frequency of use and longer duration of time using the apps were both associated with greater psychological distress and depression."
Current swipe-based dating app users show more depressive symptoms than non-users.
19 percent of current users reported more depressive symptoms as a result of swipe-based dating app use, compared to 9 percent of the people surveyed who did not use a dating app.
"People who are currently using dating apps for a year or more were 3.5 times more likely to be distressed and 4 times more likely to report probable depression," Pit explains in an interview with Global Dating Insights.
People are spending more and more time on dating apps.
A study of 5,000 people between the ages of 18-30 years old shows that people are spending an average of 10 hours per week on dating apps alone. Men were logging on to check their status on dating apps 9 times a day, with women logging on 10 times per day to check their potential matches. How much time are they spending on these apps? Well, men were found to be spending 85 minutes per day on these apps, with women spending 79 minutes each day.
This amount of time spent on dating apps could boost the negative impacts we have seen through the study listed above.
Are there benefits to using swipe-based dating apps?
It's not all bad - 40% of current swipe-based dating app users report a positive mental health impact from using these apps.
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While the study proved that there are significant negative mental health risks that follow using swipe-based dating apps for longer periods of time, not all time spent on these apps is damaging.
"The findings highlight that dating apps with swiping functions have a complex impact on the psychological well-being of users," Pit explains. Although the findings of this study are worrisome, there are some benefits that were also highlighted in the results.
Connections and serious relationships are being formed.
Up to 40 percent of current swipe-based dating app users said they had previously entered a serious relationship with someone they met through one of these apps. 77 percent of people who reported using these apps also said they had met people face-to-face, with 26 percent of these people saying they had met more than 5 people through the apps.
This connection with others leads to a positive impact on self-esteem.
Meeting people, dating, and finding serious relationships through swipe-based dating apps has proven to have a positive impact on mental health as well, with up to 40 percent of individuals using these apps claiming it's had a positive impact on their self-esteem.
Dating apps connect us with people we'd never meet otherwise.
Back in 1995 when Match.com launched, there was a spike in interracial marriages. In today's society, these swipe-based dating apps allow you to browse based on where you are. If you move to a new city, your dating pool changes. The benefits of being able to connect with people we otherwise wouldn't meet is one of the best things dating apps have given us.
Did you know that 70 percent of same-sex relationships start through dating apps?
With the launch of Grindr in 2009, there was what can only be described as a sexual revolution within the LGBTQ+ community. Finding a partner became easier, safer, and more common. Not only was Grindr the first dating app that focused on the LGBTQ+ community, but it was also one of the first to use geolocation technology.
It's safe to say that digital dating isn't leaving us anytime soon, and neither is the use of swipe-based dating. There are negative and positive impacts of swipe-based dating apps on our mental health, but the questions is how can we increase the positive and decrease the negative?
The study by these two Australian universities isn't the first to question the mental health impact of dating apps. Back in 2017, an unrelated study linked the use of Tinder with negative self-esteem and body shame.
One of the researchers on the Australian-based study explains: "We are calling for app developers to take a more active role in the promotion of positive mental health messages, particularly on swipe-based dating applications."
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- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
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