Coupling during Covid?

COVID-19 emerged as a global health pandemic, and all around the world, people have been asking the same question: How do we get back to normal?

And while many are contemplating what a new normal after coronavirus will look like, there may not be a straightforward answer. Despite what the name suggests, the “new normal” may not resemble anything like the life we used to know. Eating out, shopping, going to work, and even going on vacation may look completely different for years to come. Another aspect of life that may be radically altered for the foreseeable future? Dating.

How do you navigate dating while you’re supposed to be social distancing or in self-quarantine? To find out, we surveyed almost 1,000 people (including Americans and Britons) to find out if casual hookups are a thing of the past. Let’s take a closer look at whether singles are more worried about getting an STI or COVID-19 from a potential partner, how many people expect their dates to wear facial coverings in public, and how online dating may change as a result of the virus. 

Down to Distance?

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying casual, consensual intimacy, the global health pandemic triggered by COVID-19 might be throwing a major wrench into people’s plans to enjoy sex. When thinking about hooking up with someone new, most people reported being more worried about catching an STI than contracting COVID-19. Compared to their counterparts across the pond, Americans were more likely to fear coming into contact with COVID-19 over a sexually transmitted infection. Millennials were also the most likely generation to fear picking up COVID-19 from a sexual partner (35%), compared to both Generation Z and Generation X. 

A majority of people were either extremely or moderately comfortable (43%) going home with someone they met during a night out before the pandemic, and an even higher percentage (55%) said the same about the idea of kissing someone they had just met. Since the pandemic began, 31% of people acknowledged they wouldn’t be comfortable taking someone home again until there was a COVID-19 vaccine available, and 27% said they wouldn’t bring someone home until all restrictions had been lifted. 

Setting Boundaries

Whether it’s one meter or two (or six feet in the United States), social distancing has become a standard expectation in public spaces and crowded gatherings. Despite the recommendation to keep a healthy space between you and people who don’t live in your household, 27% of singles admitted they wouldn’t wait at all to kiss a new love interest, even during a global pandemic. 

Still, among the majority of people who would wait before locking lips with someone new, the average wait time was nearly five weeks. Britons were less concerned about pumping the breaks before kissing than Americans, waiting 4 weeks on average, compared to 5.5 weeks in the U.S.

You don’t want to jump into uncomfortable conversations, but COVID-19 may have changed the boundaries people set with potential partners. A vast majority of respondents were comfortable asking a romantic interest if they wear a mask (65%), if they’ve been seeing other people (59%), if they’ve been in contact with someone who has symptoms of the virus (58%), and if they’ve been tested for COVID-19 themselves (53%). Generation Z singles were more likely than millennials to ask safety questions related to COVID-19 of their dates, including if their dates wear masks (71%), if they’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19 (65%), and whether they’ve been tested for the virus (56%). Compared to 53% of Gen Z singles who wouldn’t date someone who refused to wear a mask in public, just 45% of millennials and 37% of Gen X singles said the same. 

Building Relationships During COVID-19

Social distancing may be important for staying healthy, but it’s likely less beneficial for your love life. Compared to more than 4 in 5 singles who claimed it was easy to gauge chemistry while going on a walk with someone, far fewer felt as confident about feeling a spark over video chat (59%), talking on the phone (52%), or texting (34%). 

Even with people still concerned about gathering in person, 57% of singles said they would likely choose to meet someone they met online in person right now. Forty-six per cent of singles would go on a date with someone they met online during the pandemic at either an indoor or outdoor location. Britons (51%) were more likely than Americans (40%) to be comfortable meeting a date at indoor or outdoor locations.

Keeping It Casual

A majority of singles felt the future looks bright for their dating lives. One in four respondents said their dating habits hadn’t changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic, and nearly as many expect things to get back to normal in the next six months or sooner. While 51% of singles felt COVID-19 will have a negative impact on their ability to date, just 3% felt things will never go back to normal, and 15% expected normalcy to take over a year to return. 

Generation X respondents were the most likely to have not adjusted their dating habits at all during the pandemic (31%) and had the most positive outlook on how quickly things would return to normal. In contrast, 18% of millennials and 19% of Generation X singles acknowledged their dating behaviours wouldn’t go back to normal for over a year.

Partnering During the Pandemic

If someone asked you to predict what dating would look like in 2020, you probably wouldn’t have guessed it would be so common to ask your date if they wear masks out in public or to only offer to meet up in outdoor locations. Like most of the plans you had for the year, dating during COVID-19 is tricky at best, and we may not all be taking the same approach. Younger generations (including Generation Z) were the most comfortable asking questions about their partner’s COVID-19 precautions, and Americans were now more worried about picking up COVID-19 than an STI. 

However, regardless of whether you’re more worried about COVID-19 or an STI, Superdrug Online Doctor is ready to help. We have resources and staff available to help you with a variety of health needs and questions. Visit us today to see the myriad ways we can assist you!

We surveyed 474 Americans using the Amazon MTurk service and 509 Britons using Clickworker.

Respondents must have been currently single (not in any type of relationship) to take the survey.

The average age of our respondents was 30.07 with a standard deviation of 10.35.

The generational breakdown of respondents was as follows:

  • The Greatest Generation (Born 1927 or earlier): 3
  • Silent Generation (Born 1928 to 1945): 2
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964): 43
  • Generation X (Born 1965 to 1980): 139
  • Millennials (Born 1981 to 1997): 560
  • Generation Z (Born 1998 to 2017): 237
For how long people would wait to kiss, anyone who said they wouldn’t wait was asked to enter in a 0, these people were not included in the overall average time people would wait to kiss a new partner. Since this question was a write in response, we only considered answers that fell below the 95th percentile. 

This survey is based on self-reporting which comes with limitations. These can include over- or under- reporting of information and recency bias.

Fair Use Statement

Dating is already hard enough, but dating during COVID-19 can be even more stressful. Help your readers get their groove back by sharing the findings of this study for any noncommercial use with a link back to this study in your story.