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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Any lingering stigma about finding true love online seems to be fading, particularly among older adults, researchers found.
In a study of 175 newlywed couples scientists at Iowa State University said those who met through online dating agencies, or social networking sites, tended to be older than other couples who met through traditional ways offline.
They were also less likely to be marrying for the first time and had shorter courtships before tying the knot -- 18.5 months instead of 42 months.
"In many cases, there are real structural forces that encourage the support and use of these technologies," said Alicia Cast, an associate professor of sociology at the university.
"And one of them is just structural constraints on people's time -- such as people who have kids, or have full-time jobs, or work long or extensive hours," she added in a statement.
But the online spouses were as attractive, intelligent and had the same self-esteem levels of the offline couples.
Online dating agencies have gained in popularity and acceptability. A recent survey by Forbes.com that named New York as the best U.S. city for singles found it achieved the No. 1 position because it has more people with active online dating accounts than any other city in the country.
U.S.-based eHarmony, which launched in the United States in 2000, claims an average of 236 of its members marry every day in the United States as a result of being matched on the site.
eHarmony is also available in Canada, Australia and Britain.
Cast and her graduate assistant Jamie McCartney studied data on the couples over a three-year period. Twenty five couples in the study had met online.
"My understanding is that there are very few studies that have been able to simultaneously get access to a source of couples who met through more conventional means, along with those who choose to meet people online," said Cast.