Skip to main content

Are We In a Sex Recession? 

Less sex

Few would argue that the U.S. is characterized by a sexually-charged culture. Thanks to technology, sex is abundantly available via digital entertainment. Dating apps make it easier than ever for people to “hook up” for casual sexual encounters. Birth control and accepting attitudes toward sexual behavior are also plentiful.

Fewer Americans are Having Sex

In spite of the amount of sex we are surrounded by, a growing body of research is suggesting that sexual frequency is declining in the United States.

A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior analyzed data from 2009 to 2018 and included a total of 1,647 young people ages 14 to 17 and 7,055 adults ages 18 to 49. Among young people ages 14 to 17, both partnered sex and solo masturbation had declined. Young men reporting neither solo masturbation nor partnered sexual behavior increased from 28 percent to 43 percent. Young women reporting neither solo masturbation nor partnered sexual behavior increased from 49 percent to 74 percent.

The study also showed that fewer adults ages 18 to 49 engaged in a range of partnered sexual activities. Adults in the 2018 group had experienced significantly less penile-vaginal intercourse in the prior year. Study participants also engaged in significantly less sexual behaviors such as oral sex or anal sex. All modes of past-year partnered sex were reported by fewer people in the 2018 group.

According to the 2021 General Social Survey, prior to 2004, about 19 percent of Americans ages 18 and over hadn’t had sex over the course of a year. In 2021, a total of 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and over hadn’t had sex over the course of a year.

Among married couples under the age of 60, 26 percent had sex once a month or less in 2021. In 1989, it was 12 percent.

According to JAMA Network research published in 2020, approximately 1 in 3 men aged 18 to 24 years reported no sexual activity in the past year.

So, you may wonder, why are we getting it on less than previous generations?

Reasons Behind the Decline

The decrease in sexual frequency among adults may be caused by the following:

  1. Fewer people are living together and have a steady or marital partner. If you don’t have a committed partner, you may have to work harder to have a sexual encounter.
  2. Today’s parents are busy and highly involved in the lives of their children. Plus, people are having children later in life, which naturally leaves them less energy for sexual activities.
  3. In the bedroom, couples are spending more time looking at their devices than each other.
  4. Many medications and chronic health problems have sexual side effects. Some cancer survivors, in particular, have to cope with the sexual side effects caused by cancer treatment.

Possible reasons behind the decrease in sexual frequency among young people include:

  1. Parental pressure to focus on academics and increased parental supervision.
  2. Body self-consciousness, distractions, lack of sleep, and other sources of inhibition.
  3. More hook-up sex instead of romantic long-term relationships.
  4. The sex that young adults are having is not enjoyable and/or painful sex.
  5. There are more alternatives for sexual pleasure nowadays.
  6. The rise of individualism and less pressure to conform to the social norm.

Research concluded that unemployed men and/or men living at home with their parents are more likely to refrain from sexual intercourse, as were men and women who were students.

Finding the Magic Number

If you’re wondering what’s normal for sexual frequency, you’re not alone. But the truth is that this number varies from couple to couple. In fact, sexual needs vary from person to person. It’s even difficult for researchers to determine if happy couples have sex more often or if having sex more often increases their level of happiness. Most research shows that having sex more than once a week doesn’t generate more happiness in the relationship. Thus, once a week is probably a good starting point for most couples looking to improve their sex life in terms of quantity.

Read more:

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter