Online dating can benefit widows, professors find

August 13, 2010

Online dating profiles may serve an important role in the grieving process, say two University of Delaware communication professors. Their new study, published in the August issue of the journal Death Studies, chronicles how widowed online daters use their profiles as a place to make sense of the past while articulating a vision of a future life.

Assistant Prof. Dannagal Young and Associate Prof. Scott Caplan collected more than 500 online dating profiles from divorced and widowed individuals of both sexes between 18 and 40 years old. They examined the profiles for evidence of healthy approaches to loss, such as describing the backstory behind the or death of the spouse, and any attempt to make sense of the past experience, an act called “cognitive reappraisal.”

They found widowed daters are more likely than divorcees to:

  • Mention the backstory;
  • Try make sense of/find meaning in it; and
  • Articulate a vision of their future partnership.

In addition, those who include a backstory are significantly more likely to describe how the experience changed them for the better. The profiles of widowed daters contained numerous references to life lessons learned, life as a fleeting experience, and the most important thing in life being love.

“Many surviving spouses point to a shift in priorities and a new appreciation for the fragility of life after their spouse dies,” explains Caplan. “Think of it as a post-loss enlightenment.”

In addition to meaning-finding and sense-making, there is another factor that correlates strongly with life satisfaction among widows and widowers: repartnering.

“Online dating seems like a way to bring these healthy behaviors together,” says Young.

Young, widowed in 2006, and Caplan, divorced in 2007, came up with the idea for the study after entering the online pool themselves.

Their results suggest creating an online profile could play a beneficial role for widows and widowers.

Explore further: Love on the information suitor highway

Related Stories

Love on the information suitor highway

March 7, 2006

Angie Vasconcellos started dating online two years ago before she moved to Arizona but broke off the relationship before it got too serious.

Looking for love on all the right Web sites?

February 5, 2007

If you're hoping for Cupid's online arrow, then watch out for tall stories and wide fabrications. Online daters, both men and women, usually fib about either their height or weight, and sometimes their age, according to a ...

Lower risk of dementia for married or cohabiting people

July 3, 2009

( -- People who live alone have twice the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in later life compared with married or cohabiting people, according to a research study led by Miia Kivipelto from ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.