Even though people are more open to discussing sex these days than they were a generation ago, they don’t appear to be engaging in the activity any more frequently, according to the results of a new study published online this week in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
In fact, San Diego State University psychology professor Dr. Jean M. Twenge and her colleagues found that Americans who were either married or living together had sex 16 fewer times per year on average from 2010 to 2014 than similar couples did between the years 2000 and 2004.
Furthermore, data collected from the General Social Survey (a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 US adults who were asked about their sexual behavior dating back to 1989) revealed that overall, Americans had sex a total of about nine fewer times per year between 2010 and 2014 than they did between 1995 and 1999.
“These data show a major reversal from previous decades in terms of marriage and sex. In the 1990s, married people had sex more times per year than never-married people, but by the mid-2000s that reversed, with the never-married having more sex,” Dr. Twenge said in a statement.
So why are Americans having less sex?
According to the authors, the results of the study are due in part to the higher percentage of men and women who do not have partners, and who thus have sex less often as a result. In addition, even though sexual frequency among unpartnered people remained constant, it declined among married and cohabitating couples, meaning that those individuals made love less often.
These decreases in sexual frequency were consistent across genders, races, regions, educational levels, and work status, and were largest among those in their 50s, those with school-age children and those who did not watch pornography, the researchers found. The differences were based on generation, with those born in the 1930s having sex the most often while those born in the 1990s tended to have sex the least often.
“Age had a strong effect on sexual frequency: Americans in their 20s had sex an average of about 80 times per year, compared to about 20 times per year for those in their 60s,” Dr. Twenge and her colleagues wrote. “The results suggest that Americans are having sex less frequently due to two primary factors: An increasing number of individuals without a steady or marital partner and a decline in sexual frequency among those with partners.”
“Despite their reputation for hooking up, millennials and the generation after them (known as iGen or Generation Z) are actually having sex less often than their parents and grandparents did when they were young,” explained Dr. Twenge. “That’s partially because fewer iGen’ers and millennials have steady partners.”
“Older and married people are having sex less often – especially after 2000. In a previous paper, we found that the happiness of adults over age 30 declined between 2000 and 2014. With less sex and less happiness, it’s no wonder that American adults seem deeply dissatisfied these days,” she added, noting that working longer hours isn’t to blame, as those who spent more time on the job actually tended to have sex more frequently on the whole.
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