How do today’s teens and young adults in India feel about relationships?

To find out, MTV India Insights Studio recently conducted a survey of people aged 15 to 25 across 50 cities in India, as well as multiple types of qualitative research, such as expert salons, digital diaries, friend triads, and interviews with parents and subject matter experts.

Here’s some of what we learned from this research:

They’ve become increasingly cynical about relationships and marriage. In 2021, just 13% of young Indians reported being in a serious or committed relationship – down from 26% in 2019 and 35% in 2016. The pandemic may have played a role in this decline. However, online dating does not appear to be a solution they’re considering. A third of Indian teens and young adults said they were likely to date someone online in 2021, compared with 46% in 2020 and 56% in 2016. Taking the longer view, marriage is increasingly unpalatable to them. In 2021, 25% said they don’t believe in marriage, up from 10% in 2020 and 8% in 2016.

They see romantic relationships as fleeting – and good friends as a possible replacement. More than 6 in 10 young Indians have experienced heartbreak in a relationship or know someone who has been cheated on. Many believe that relationships today are “as fake as WhatsApp forwards” (61%) and that “people treat relationships like Insta stories – here today, gone tomorrow” (66%). Despite their lack of faith in romance, they see possibility within their friendship circles. Over half (54%) believe that a best friend can be a soul mate.