We’re In Peak Online Dating Season. Here’s Why
January 4, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller
The busiest time of year for online dating is the nearly two-month stretch that runs from the day after Christmas through Valentine’s Day. It reaches its peak on the Sunday after New Year’s Day, or “Dating Sunday” as it’s known by those who work in the romance industry. This is consistently the single biggest day of the year for new online dating signups.
So why is that? What’s going on in the first few months of winter that makes people want to couple-up (a phenomenon often referred to in the media as “cuffing season”)? Common sense tells us that it’s probably just singles making New Year’s resolutions (you know, the “new year, new you” idea). However, research suggests that there’s more here than meets the eye.
In an article I wrote for TONIC on this subject, I did a deep dive into the science behind the winter dating season. What I found is that there’s actually a much broader increase in sexual interest and desire that takes place this time of year—one that that isn’t limited to the surge in traffic that Match.com and other online dating sites are seeing. For example, we also tend to see increases in Google searches for pornography and prostitution in the winter.
This larger spike in sexual interest appears to have biopsychosocial roots, meaning it’s not caused by just one thing. Research suggests that there are biological factors at play (like changes in our neurotransmitter and hormone levels, which are driven by reductions in the amount of sunlight we’re exposed to), as well as psychosocial factors (like the fact that many of us take vacations and attend a lot of parties and social gatherings around the holidays, including events where there may be pressure from parents or peers to partner-up).
In short, the winter online dating season is about far more than people making relationship resolutions for the new year, although that’s undoubtedly part of the story, too. To learn more, check out the full article here or listen to a recent interview I did with the NPR program 1A on the science of cuffing season.
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >