One in five single men and women, an estimated 2 million people, are turning to dating agencies to start relationships.
Researchers who produced the figure say it will double over the next five years, amid evidence that modern lifestyle demands are killing off traditional courtship.
Richard Scase, professor or organisational behaviour at Kent university who conducted the research, said: “You have online services, lonely hearts ads and dating agencies all growing quickly to meet the increasing numbers of single men and women.”
Scase compiled a report called Britain Towards 2010, which chartered social patterns. He believes one group is driving the growth of dating agencies: “Younger women are becoming more and more engaged in careers, not in personal relationships.” he said. “Time is at a premium and they look at relationships in a very contractual way. They assess the person as you would test-drive a car.”
Scase believes the office environment – once a hotbed of romantic intrigue – is less so now. ” Equality in the work-place presents a paradox,” he said. “It impairs the development of relationships because people are forced to adopt two personas, one for work and the other for elsewhere.” Scarse reached his estimate of 2 million people after studying figures from Britan’s 700 dating agencies and official statistics.
Karen Mooney, who runs Sara Eden Introductions charges £1000 for basic annual membership. Celebrity clients can pay up to £6000. This year, Sara Eden has seen a 75% increase in business and has more than 2300 clients.
“We do what families used to do 100 years ago,” said Mooney. “You used your contacts to find a good match for your daughter, like in a Jane Austen Book. People don’t have to settle for Mr Second Best nowadays.”
Mooney said doctors form the largest professional group on her books. “They tend to log on to our site in their own time, 11 pm to 3 am,” she said.
Richard Collins, 38 a GP from Berkshire is a doctor looking for love. He had a two-year relationship through the agency and has just re joined and is willing to try it again. “You come to terms with your prejudices about joining a dating agency. These days we are all very busy and I’m making sure I’m not leaving it to chance,” he said. “one of my friends married the second person he met through Sara Eden . It was great.”
“As you are getting older a relationship seems that much more critical in your life. You see your friends happily married and you wonder what it’s all about and why it isn’t happening to you. There is a bit of pressure there.”
Des Nolan, 39, runs his own recruitment and training company in Hertfordshire. He has started a few relationships through the same agency. “A friend of a friend – who was one of the first people to marry someone through the agency – told me about it. Once I’d exhausted my friends’ friends and contacts at work I thought I should give it a go and I’m glad I did.” He said.
Adam Luck and Emily Milich