Thanks to the growing popularity of apps like Tinder, one in five relationships now begins online. But users might find more than romance when they swipe right. In 2014, sexually transmitted disease rates in Rhode Island reached a 10-year high. Cases of gonorrhea alone rose 30 percent (in the state’s relatively small population), mirroring a national trend in STDs.
Geospatial apps like Tinder and Grindr could be one reason: A 2014 study found that gay men who used them had higher rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia. But keep in mind, that’s only a correlation. The usual suspects—drugs, alcohol, and multiple partners—are still at play, say state health officials. The apps likely enable risky behavior, not cause it. Swipe safely, folks.
This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Dating Apps Go Viral.”