College students love dating apps, but is it worth it?

Social media and the digitization of the modern world have made finding potential sexual partners as easy as the click of a button. Now, dating apps have become one of the most popular avenues for single people in the United States, whether they are used for casual hookups or finding a romantic partner.

There were 44.2 million online dating users in the United States in 2020, according to research conducted by, and this number is expected to grow to 53.3 million by 2025.

Some of the more popular dating apps among college students are Tinder, Bumble, Hinge or Grindr for queer men.

An LGBTQ+ student at DePaul University, Adin, said he uses Tinder, Bumble and Grindr to meet potential partners because it is easier than meeting people in person, particularly due to the pandemic.

“Ideally, I’d like to meet someone in class or at a party, but usually I resort to dating apps because it is easier and convenient,” Adin said.

With increased use of online dating apps for finding potential partners, health experts question whether online dating could be contributing to the rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

“Especially during a time like Covid and [social] isolation, a lot of people were looking for a quick connection, and that paired with spontaneous hooking up isn’t always the safest,” said Susan Markunas, a professor of psychology at DePaul.

The most recent data, published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in April 2021, found there were more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2019.

In 2019, reported STIs in the U.S reached an all-time high for the sixth consecutive year, according to the CDC, and the most common age group for contracting STIs is people 15 to 24 years old.

Adin said he was recently tested for STIs because he was concerned about one of his sexual partner’s history and wanted to make sure his own health was not at risk from someone he met on a dating app.

“The rise in STIs and continuation of positive cases is because there is still just a lack of sex education, and not understanding how severe an STI can be,” said Jordan McCann, chair of the American College Health Association’s Sexual Health Coalition. “College students have this invincibility complex, or [think] it’s not going to happen to [them].”

McCann believes the pandemic may have contributed to the rise in STIs because people were not only isolated, but getting tested for STIs was no longer a primary concern for people.

“There has been less sex happening, but STIs still continue to increase because weve been in a pandemic [dealing] with a very serious health concern, and people may not be getting tested as much as they were,” she said.

According to a survey conducted by the Kinsey Institute and Lovehoney, 38 percent of single people reported having less sex than they did before the pandemic.

In addition to the use of dating apps during the pandemic, experts believe misinformation is the primary cause of the high rate of STIs in the United States.

“Sex education is the only topic in schools that is not regulated by some kind of mandate of what you teach,” Markunas said. “That kind of misinformation is dangerous.”

McCann said young people are unaware of the risk contracting an STI poses, causing them to be unconcerned with using a protective measure during sex.

“The young people don’t want to be told what to do, and that is often the message that is sent when it comes to STI prevention,” she said.

For some students, dating apps come with a lot of risk and oftentimes, little reward.

Adin believes that while dating apps may be entertaining, they can be detrimental to a person’s mental health.

“Using these apps affects my mental health because when I am not getting a lot of likes or matches, I tend to question my worth,” Adin said. “Even though I know I don’t need a male’s validation to boost my confidence, the apps still hurt my self-esteem.”

Markunas said even though dating apps gave people a forum to connect with others during the pandemic, they tend to have a negative impact on people’s mental health because they promote more shallow relationships.

“A lot of online dating leads to more shallow relationships because they’re based on initial attraction, and that is why we don’t see a high percentage of long-term lasting relationships,” Markunas said.

McCann said wearing a mask is the same principle as wearing a condom to prevent an STI, and both are protective barriers against contracting an infection that is detrimental to the health and safety of others.

“If we can avoid [the spread of infections], why wouldn’t we?” McCann said.