Dating During the Pandemic: The Struggle is Real [Study]

It seems younger generations might be taking pandemic guidelines more responsibly.

We’re a little more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic. People around the world have had to adapt to this new normal, from working from home to remote learning and watching sports on television played in front of empty stadiums.

Social activities also took a hit. Fewer people are dining out with friends or going to the bar. Zoom happy hours became a thing. Drive-by weddings were all the rage.

And then there’s dating.

The struggles of dating during the pandemic

It’s no surprise that dating during the pandemic has become a more virtual experience. Match Group, the company that owns Hinge, Tinder and other dating apps, saw an 11 percent increase in subscribers during the pandemic.

Apps like Bumble started adding badges to indicate pandemic date boundaries — think only socially distanced with a mask, only virtual meetups and others.

We conducted a study of single renters to determine how their attitudes about dating during the pandemic have changed over the past year. While there are some differences between men and women and age groups, it seems attitudes are (mostly) the same.

Older daters are less cautious about meeting in person

With in-app video features and zoom dates, users can meet and qualify their dates from the safety and comfort of their homes. A 2020 study shared that six percent of respondents were not using video before the pandemic, and since coronavirus hit, 69 percent are now open to video chatting.

Our survey also found that overall, 15 percent of daters had more virtual or video meetups than before the pandemic and 22 percent are waiting longer to meet someone for the first time. When you break it down by age groups, you notice a definite trend from younger single renters who are dating to older generations.

precautions on first date graphic

It seems as daters get older, they are less responsible in terms of meeting for the first time compared to Gen Z and younger millennials (who often get criticized for ignoring social distancing guidelines).

In fact, while nearly a quarter (24 percent) of renters between the ages of 18-29 waited longer to meet someone for the first time, that number shrinks to 19 percent for actively dating renters between the ages of 45 and 60.

Additionally, younger generations are also more likely to go on video dates and take precautions for themselves or ask their dates to do the same, such as wearing a mask or waiting for a negative COVID test before meeting in-person.

However, actively dating single renters between 30-44-years old (the majority of the millennial generation) have the highest rate of video first dates at 18 percent.

Daters are enjoying more outside experiences

In what should come as no surprise, outside dating adventures are the most popular options for renters during the pandemic. When asked about the types of dates that people went on more often during the pandemic, outside dates like walks and picnics (34 percent) and dinner or drinks at an establishment with outside seating (29 percent) are the most popular options.

most popular dates during pandemic graphic

Inside dates or dinner and drinks at indoor restaurants are still fairly popular, with both receiving about 16 percent. Interestingly, dates at either person’s homes also come in at roughly 25 percent of the time, indicative of people trying to limit their exposure outside of their personal bubbles.

Tinder remains most popular among dating apps

Tinder had the highest day of swipes ever in late March, with more than 3 billion swipes. In fact, Tinder has reported increasing quarterly paid subscribers counts from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020 with a 15 percent revenue increase year-over-year.

This correlates with our survey data, which shows Tinder as the most popular dating app among single renters, followed by Bumble.

most popular dating apps during pandemic graphic

Interestingly, our findings show a higher percentage of men claiming they are active on all of the dating apps or sites that we listed. This possibly shows that men are using more platforms simultaneously to find love, while women prefer to stick with a few favorites.

4 out of 10 singles say dating is harder than ever before

Nearly 40 percent of all single renters who went on a date in the past year say the experience is more challenging during the pandemic. That’s not surprising when you consider social distancing restrictions and limitations on society.

graphic about how people feel dating during a pandemic is harder than before

When diving deeper, you notice a trend that women who have been dating over the past year say the whole experience has been more challenging compared to men in the same situation. Perhaps this relates to our previous takeaway where women are active on fewer dating apps, potentially limiting themselves to a smaller number of possible partners.

It’s also worth noting that as renters get older, they feel dating is becoming more challenging because of the pandemic. However, our survey does not look into other factors at play for middle-aged renters, such as increased life or job responsibilities, possible health issues and a shrinking dating pool.

Dating tips during the pandemic

Adapting to this new dating landscape isn’t always fun or easy, but it’s definitely possible! Whether you’re hesitant to try dating right now or you want to, but simply don’t know where to start, here are a few tips for dating during the pandemic.

1. Give dating apps a chance

Dating apps often get a bad rap, but they’re the best option for meeting new people when you can’t go out to parties, bars and other places where you’d normally meet someone. And there are plenty of dating apps out there to choose from, all of which have unique offerings. You may need to test out a few different ones before finding an app that you like, so don’t turn away from them if you have a bad experience on one.

2. Take advantage of video chat

Sure, messaging each other is convenient and phone calls are nice, but being able to see the person that you’re talking to is really valuable when dating. There’s a lot of non-verbal communication that happens via facial expression and you’ll be able to better gauge someone’s interest in you if you’re able to read what their voice and words alone can’t tell you.

3. Make time to talk frequently

If you’re not meeting up in person, it is easy to push off responding to messages or starting phone and video calls, even if you’re interested in the person you’re talking to. So set aside time to talk to them, whether that means messaging them on your lunch break or chatting over the phone for a half-hour after work. Make it a priority or else you and the person you’re talking to might lose interest and may stop talking altogether.

4. Meet in person — safely

Just as there’s a big difference between messaging, phone calls and video calls, there’s a big difference between video chatting and doing it in person. Facial expressions can tell us a lot, but body language gives us even more to work with when we’re trying to decipher how someone feels.

Meet up somewhere that you can stay socially distanced, but still talk and interact in some way. You can try hanging out at a park for a bit and maybe even throw a frisbee or kick a soccer ball, so you’re doing something together without getting too close.

5. Establish your comfort level

Everyone has a different experience and their own feelings about the pandemic. It’s important to know where you and the person you’re dating are at with things so you can both feel as good as possible in the circumstances.

If you’re not comfortable meeting in person, then say so and be specific in letting them know why you don’t want to meet in person. Or if you’re okay with meeting up and the person you’re meeting would prefer if you stayed 10 feet apart, be respectful and understanding of that so that they don’t feel worried the entire time you’re together. Don’t focus on seeming “paranoid” or worry about how others will view you — you should feel just as comfortable as the other person in this unique dating situation, so make your comfort level known to them.


The information in this article was drawn from a survey conducted in January 2021. The survey collected 1,091 responses from single renters over the age of 18. Of these individuals, 52 percent were between the ages of 18 and 29. Another 25 percent were between the ages of 30 and 44, while 17 percent listed their age as between 45 and 60. An additional 6 percent were over the age of 60.

Respondents were 55 percent female and 45 percent male. Survey results were self-reported, so they are subject to response biases.

Respondents’ reported annual incomes ranged from $0 to $200,000+. Sixty percent of renters made between $0 and $49,999; 24 percent of renters fell in the $50,000 to $99,999 income bracket; 7 percent made between $100,000 and $200,000 and 2 percent earned more than $200,000 annually. Seven percent of respondents preferred not to answer this question.

Fair use statement

This survey information and related graphics are available to help interpret economic, holiday and pandemic-related trends. Please properly credit and link to the survey information and graphics as a courtesy to their creators.