NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - As stock markets across the globe have plummeted, more people have opted to try their luck looking for love online as a distraction from financial woes -- and to save themselves money, according to dating Web sites.
A list of Web sites have reported a pickup in activity since the global financial crisis hit in September as people seek a companion during tough times and save money on face-to-face dates by searching for potential partners on the Internet.
"On days when the U.S. Dow Jones industrial (average) went down by a lot, by more than 100 points, more people were likely to log in and spend more time on the site," Gian Gonzaga, senior research scientist at Web site eHarmony told Reuters.
"It makes a lot of sense. People seek out companionship in times of stress. Studies repeatedly show that being in a relationship can help a person's psychological and physical health."
The Dow Jones industrial average is down 35 percent this year, hitting a year low on November 21, and presenting a new situation for the relatively new online dating industry which has only gone through one economic crisis before, after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Match.com, an online dating service, said it had experienced its largest membership growth over the last seven years in November as the daily drumbeat of bad economics sent people looking for love.
"During these trying times, people are looking for hope in their inbox," said Thomas Enraght-Moony, CEO of Match.com which has online dating sites in 40 countries.
Perfectmatch.com reported a 47 percent jump in the number of members in the three months to November compared to the previous quarter, supporting theories that online dating could be a countercyclical business that does well in an economic downturn.
A poll by Opinion Research Corp., conducted on behalf of eHarmony, found that 57 percent of Americans said the credit crunch made them worry about their love lives with married men the most stressed group with 63 percent of them concerned.
But when researchers divided the 1,092 respondents into age groups, those aged between 25 and 34 were most stressed about the impact their personal economic situation would have on their love lives, with 75 percent of them concerned.
However, researchers found that younger, single people who were stressed about the economy and its impact were more likely to seek out a relationship.
Older people, who were more likely to be married, were concerned that financial stress would harm their relationship, particularly if they feared losing their job or their house.
"When people are stressed they want to find a relationship but if they are in relationship, that extra stress will make that relationship that bit harder," said Gonzaga, adding that similar surveys in Australia and Britain came up with the same results.
"Stress gets under the skin of relationships. Partners spend less time together because they have to work more. There are often more fights over bills and household budgets."
Another survey by Avalanche LLC, which operates online dating Web sites date.com, matchmaker.com, and amor.com, found 48 percent of people were spending more time online or on the phone with a potential date before spending on a face-to-face meeting.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Patricia Reaney