Pushy relatives asking singletons about romance over Christmas dinner could be behind a surge in people searching online for love before the new year, a relationship expert says.

Members on Trade Me's dating website FindSomeone have sent more than 240,000 messages and smile emoticons over the past week - up 67 per cent on the same period last year.

The number of new members has also soared, up 38 per cent on a year ago.

Manager Rick Davies said it was the busiest the site had been since it was founded in 2001, and dating fever was set to continue.


"With lonely hearts in a frantic search for a date for New Year, these levels are likely to keep ramping up in the lead-in to Monday night.''

Sex therapist Robyn Salisbury said single people were likely to feel more lonely at this time of year because of the pressure for people to socialise.

"Family gatherings when people ask `When are you going to getting married' play a role too.''

Also, people who would normally be busy working but now have some time on their hands, might fill it by looking for love, Ms Salisbury said.

There were some occasions during the year that would prompt people to think about looking for a partner, such as midnight on New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day.

"When there are associations of togetherness and partying and having a good time, if you don't have a partner or you don't have good friends who accept you as you are and you enjoy spending time with, then that may well make people reach out more.''

But she warned online daters that predators used the internet to take advantage of vulnerable people.

"Through the internet you can't know anything about someone - people can make up a completely false story and use false photos.''

She advised people use a neutral phone to call prospective dates and meet in the daylight in a public place.

According to FindSomeone, the strongest surge in new profiles was from Otago, but Auckland remained the "engine room'' of the online dating scene with the most members.