Nearly 1 in 3 young US men have had no sex in the last year – a 63% drop from 2002, report finds

Fewer young Americans in the 21st century are having sex, especially men, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that nearly one in three men between ages 18 and 24 said they have had no sexual activity in the past year.

That’s a 63 percent increased from the one in five men of the same age group who reported the same thing in 2002.

Between 2000 and 2018, a lack of sexual activity, or sexual inactivity, was also on the rise among men and women aged 25 to 34 years during the survey period, 

The team, led by the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, said possible reasons for the decline in sexual frequency may include the stress of juggling work and intimate relationships, as well as the prevalence of other forms of solo entertainment such as video games.

A new study led by the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, found that 2018, one in three American men between ages 18 and 24 reported having no sexual activity in the last year (file image)

For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team looked at survey data conducted every other year from 2000 and 2018 including nearly 10,000 men and women between ages 18 to 44.

The questionnaire asked about sexual frequency in the past year and the number of sexual partners in the past year. 

Researchers then compared the results from 2000-2002 to those from 2016-2018. 

They found that the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds having no sex in the past year dramatically increased among men from 18.9 percent to 30.9 percent.

A rise was also seen among women, but not as dramatic, only rising from 15.1 percent in 2000-2002 to 19.1 percent in 2016-2018.

Smaller increases were also seen in the 25-34 age group with nearly double as many men not having had sex in a year and 1.7 times the amount of women.

However, no climbs were seen either among men or women in the 35-to-44 age bracket. 

The 2018 figure (far right) is a 63% decrease from the 19% of men in the same age bracket who reported the same thing in 2002 (far left)

The 2018 figure (far right) is a 63% decrease from the 19% of men in the same age bracket who reported the same thing in 2002 (far left)

Among all adults, just under 10 percent, reported no sexual activity in the previous year from 2000-2002 to 2016-2018.

Overall, 16.5 percent of respondents reported less sexual activity in 2016-2018 versus 9.5 percent in 2000-2002, mostly among unmarried, heterosexual men.  

Sexual activity was largely unchanged among unmarried women, along with no notable decline among gay men, researchers reported.  

Men who were unemployed or had lower income were more likely to be sexually inactive, as were men and women who were students. 

Researchers also found that married adults are also having less sex.

In 2018, 58 percent of married men and and 61 percent of married women reported having sex at least once a week. In 2002, 71 percent of men and 69 percent women, reported the same.

Given a preference for men of higher socioeconomic status and the larger number of college-educated women than men, some young men may find it difficult to form heterosexual relationships, the team notes.

‘Higher income could mean more resources to search for partners and could be considered as more desirable by such partners,’ study co-author Peter Ueda of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden said in an email.

While outside the study period, the COVID-19 pandemic that has left many unemployed and fearful of infection is likely to exacerbate the trend.

The consequences of the outbreak on sexual relationships is an issue that warrants monitoring, Ueda said. 

The authors note that the rise of depression and anxiety in the US may also play a role in the decline of sexual frequency.  

‘There are now many more choices of things to do in the late evening than there once were and fewer opportunities to initiate sexual activity if both partners are engrossed in social media, electronic gaming, or binge watching,’ said Dr Jean Twenge, a professor in the department of psychology in San Diego State University said in an editorial accompanying the report.