YPulse’s recent Dating & Relationships Report shows that European Gen Z and Millennials are finding dating more difficult, with 71% of them agreeing that “It’s hard to meet a significant other these days.” A lot has to do with the multiplication of options offered by dating apps and social media, which results in users “Talking to others at the same time to keep their options open,” in the words of one of our 24-year-old female respondents from the U.K. Dating apps—a growing market worldwide—have evolved over the years to include more features to adapt to the variety non-dating reasons why young consumers use these platforms for.
In our Dating & Relationships survey, YPulse asked Gen Z and Millennials who use dating apps the reasons why they turn to these platforms, with options from a list of answers ranging from “I want to feel less lonely” to “Just for fun, to pass time.” Comparing the answers of young consumers in Western Europe and in North America, our data shows that they aren’t turning to dating apps for the same reasons:
North American Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to be turning to dating apps to find a serious significant other
When logging into apps like Tinder or Bumble, young North Americans are more likely to be looking for romance compared to their peers across the pond. More than two in five (43%) North American Gen Z and Millennials say they use dating apps to find their future boyfriend / girlfriend, as compared to 36% in Western Europe. And when it comes to finding their future spouse, there is an even bigger difference between the two regions: 33% of North American Gen Z and Millennials say they use these platforms to find their future spouse, compared to only 17% of Western Europeans.
North American Gen Z and Millennials are generally more likely to be looking for a serious partner—as shown by their views on the importance of marriage. Young Europeans are just not viewing marriage as significant as their North American peers; YPulse asked young consumers in both regions how much they agree with the statement “Marriage is the end goal to any serious relationship,” and there was a stunning +15pts difference between the two regions, with 67% of North Americans agreeing with it, and only 52% in Western Europe. So, while it is still more than half disavowing the need to get married in order to validate a committed relationship than in North America.
Young Europeans turn more to dating apps to find someone to hook up with than their North American counterparts
In addition to being less likely to look for committed romantic partners, young Europeans are also slightly more likely to be looking for a hook up through dating apps. This difference is particularly noticeable when comparing European Gen Z with their North American peers: in Western Europe, 42% of Gen Z say they use dating apps to find someone to hook up with, a whopping +12pts more than in North America. And it’s a rising trend across Western Europe: in 2022, only 28% of young Europeans used dating apps to find someone to hook up with, but they are 38% this year, and in Italy, it represents the majority of young consumers (52%).
It is true that sexual freedom is more predominant in European culture than in North America, where the Puritan background still reflects among the younger generations. Last month, YPulse told you about a student at the University of Oxford who decided to create OxShag, an app designed to “spice up the Oxford casual sex scene,” according to its founder. And while the app didn’t survive long due to privacy concerns, it highlights the liberal spirit of European hook up culture. YPulse’s Dating & Relationships report data confirms this cultural trait, and shows that young Europeans are in general more sexually active than their North American peers. This year, 38% of European Gen Z say they are sexually active, compared to 31% of Gen Z in North America.
Both young consumers in NA and WE use dating apps for their entertainment
Despite these cultural differences in dating app usage between North America and Western Europe, there is a large similarity: Gen Z and Millennials are turning to dating apps to entertain themselves. Nearly two in five young consumers say they use dating apps “Just to have fun, and to pass time,” in both North America and Western Europe. This is especially the case among Gen Z, who is more likely than Millennials to say they use dating apps just to have fun (+4pts in NA, +5pts in WE).
And the fact that many young consumers use dating apps to entertain themselves has been picked up on by brands. As a result, we’re seeing increased competition among brands in the industry to make dating apps more entertaining; Bumble just launched a Netflix-themed question game that users can play against their matches. The dating app also got seriously into gamification with the release of a live version of its speed dating feature, where users are referred to as “gamers,” and are asked to “play game” by chatting with others before a match is made for them. Blindlee—a British dating app developed in London and inspired by the TV show Love is Blind—doesn’t let you see the person you want to date until you’ve had a three-minute “voice conversation” with them—a bit old-fashion, but still fun and spontaneous. Clearly, dating apps have realized the power of entertainment and fun when it comes to reaching Gen Z and Millennials—and whether it helps them find their one true love is perhaps not actually all that important.