A new study shows that female online daters peak at age 18, and we’ll swipe left on that

Studies have shown that at least 40% of Americans have tried online dating at some point. But for all the great things about online dating, there’s no denying that it has its pitfalls, too (catfish, anyone?). A big one, of course, is that people are often judged unfairly. Now, a new study shows that for online daters, women peak at age 18, while men peak at age 50. Yikes.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, look at the “desirability” of male and female users based on how many messages nearly 200,000 users (all seeking opposite-sex partners) got over one month on a popular online dating service. They also looked at whether or not the people sending the message were “desirable” based on the same criteria. And like we said, researchers found that men don’t peak until they’re 50, but women peak at age 18.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a study has found results like this. In 2010, research from OkCupid found that men from the ages of 22 to 30 were almost completely focused on meeting women who were younger than them. Even more disturbing was a line from an OkCupid blog post: “The median 30-year-old man spends as much time messaging teenage girls as he does women his own age,” it read.

However, the researchers for this latest study were surprised by the results.

"The age gradient for women definitely surprised us - both in terms of the fact that it steadily declined from the time women were 18 to the time they were 65, and also how steep it was, said Elizabeth Bruch, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan and an author of the study, The New York Times reports.

So why exactly are older men so intent on meeting, dating, and/or hooking up with younger women? One psychologist, Michelle Drouin, told The New York Times it has to do with evolution. Apparently, males seek out younger women for fertility reasons they don’t even realize. Dr. Drouin also said that men could just be more interested in how younger women look.

The study also found that men weren’t as interested in women with undergraduate degrees. Dr. Drouin believes that may be because men think women who are educated with higher degrees have “more work commitment and less relationship and family commitment.”

The one silver lining to this research is that it might not be entirely accurate.

Dr. Drouin says she believes that what people look for in online dating reflects aspiration more than what they actually want. This is based on the fact that most users in the study messaged people who were more desirable than themselves, representing dating preferences more than reality. In other words, older men could be messaging younger women just to see what would happen, even if they’re not really looking for that kind of long-term relationship.

Twitter users had a lot of thoughts about this online dating study.

And we can’t say that we disagree.

Let’s hope things get better out there in the online dating world.

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