Two students on a video call.
Photography by Nick Romanenko, Models: Jea Young Park and Timi Ojo

As a result of COVID-19, young adults are looking for committed relationships, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher.

In the time of COVID-19, when intimate relationships have been strained and human connections fleeting, singles are kissing hookups goodbye in favor of settling down—and getting vaccinated at a higher rate to make it happen. That’s the finding of Helen Fisher, a member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences. She is also the chief scientific adviser for the dating site “We are seeing historic turnarounds with singles,” says Fisher, who has done extensive research on brain chemistry and romantic love. “They are looking for committed relationships.”

In her advisory role, Fisher conducts an annual survey of 5,000 singles nationwide to gauge trends and behavior patterns among people ages 18 to 21. Although sexual attraction is still important, those surveyed in 2021 rated emotional maturity, more than even honesty and communication, as the top consideration in selecting a partner. This pandemic population of singles, according to Fisher, is looking past small talk and wants to find someone to lock down with, often using video dates as an icebreaker. A high number, 70 percent, of men said they wanted a relationship in the next year compared to 60 percent of women who called it a priority (not a surprise to Fisher, who says men fall in love faster).

“I call it post-traumatic growth,” she says, “especially among college students, Gen Z, and Millennials, who have faced a lot of hardship during this pandemic. They are growing up, know what they want, and are leading the way.”