Far from dampening the desire of Brits in the throes of recession, the current economic climate has actually bolstered the online dating industry as new research from Mintel shows Brits are turning to romance to keep the credit crunch blues away.
The exclusive new consumer research finds that the online dating market reached a heart stopping £80 million in 2008 – up a massive 20% on the previous year. And the passion for online dating doesn’t end there – Mintel also predicts the online dating market will grow just over 20% to reach around £95 million in 2009 and forecasts continued growth to nearly £150 million by 2014.
Matt King, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel said:
“The onset of the credit crunch has not had a negative impact on the online dating market – in fact many sites are reporting more users than ever. During recession people spend more time at home rather than spending money going to bars and restaurants and going online is seen as an effective way to meet new people. “
Mintel estimates around 5.2 million UK adults are using the internet for dating. Furthermore, the research reveals more than four in ten singles either have already logged on or would be interested in taking part. It’s the 20 to 34 year-olds who look to have the biggest potential for the future online dating market with more than a fifth claiming to be interested in participating. Indeed, proving online love is not just for the young, 9% of those aged over 55 also said they would be interested in taking part.
“While online dating sites have been hit by the explosion in social networking sites in the last three years – the sector is surviving the economic downturn. Difficult times are forcing people to re-evaluate what is most important in their lives and therefore are increasingly likely to look for love. As the recession bites however, free internet dating is likely to increase its appeal across the board, which may broaden the socio-economic profile of its users. “Matt continues.
However, there are still challenges facing the market. While most UK operators believe that the stigma surrounding online dating has largely evaporated, Mintel’s research finds that nearly a quarter of consumers still perceive it as ‘desperate’ and ‘embarrassing’. The research also reveals that safety is the key concern amongst would-be users. With an increasing amount of dating profiles from scammers, con artists or other undesirables, 26% of participants when questioned associated online dating as being ‘unsafe’.
Just 4% of those aged over 55 date online and almost one in ten say they would be potentially interested, showing how so called “silver surfers” are increasingly web-savvy. Some 20% of over-55s now claim to use social networks and as younger generations age with increased knowledge of the online world this sector has the potential to see growth.
Around one in seven of those surveyed claimed to be single and looking for a relationship, including 41% of 16 to 19-year-olds.

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