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Why Americans Are Having Less Sex Than Ever

Nearly one quarter of American adults 18 and older have not had sex within the past year, according to the latest General Social Survey. In the late 1990s, that number was less than 20 percent. And some are using that discrepancy to declare that we're in the middle of the Great American Sex Drought.

So what's driving this mass decline in sexual activity? An aging population is partially to blame. Roughly 26 percent of the population is 60 or over, whereas only 18 percent of the population was over 60 in 1996. Half of the 60+ respondents reported going a year without sex, so that demographic is skewing the overall average. 

However, there is something happening at the other end of the age spectrum that's likely having an even greater effect on the overall statistics. In 1989, 14 percent of people aged 18-29 reported not having sex within the past year, but in 2018, that number grew to 23 percent. But why are young people having less sex? You can blame changes to the way young people think about relationships, says one expert.

"There are more people in their 20s who don't have a live-in partner," Jean Twenge—a professor of psychology at San Diego State University—told The Washington Post. "So under those circumstances, I think less sex is going to happen."

Reported rates of sex for the over 30 crowd have remained relatively steady, largely because people in those demographics are much more likely to be married.

But some members of the 18-29 demographic are having less sex than others. While 18 percent of women under 30 reported not having sex in the past year, that number jumped to 28 percent for young men. Previously, rates of sex were fairly similar between under 30 men and women.

There are a couple of reasons why men may be seeing a greater reduction of sex than women. The shaky economy means more men are now unemployed, and there has been previous research showing a "connection between labor force participation and stable relationships," she said. Additionally, young men are more likely to be living with their parents than young women, and "when you're living at home it's probably harder to bring sexual partners into your bedroom," Twenge added.

However, there is still one other factor of modern life that may be contributing to a decline in sex: technology.

"There are a lot more things to do at 10 o'clock at night now than there were 20 years ago," Twenge said. "Streaming video, social media, console games, everything else."

Guess we'll take that as one more reason to not take your phone to bed with you.


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