Sexlessness: How Many Americans Didn’t Have Sex Last Year?
April 6, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller
Most people have sex at least once in their lives. For example, in a longitudinal study of over 20,000 American adolescents who were surveyed repeatedly over a 15-year period, just 3% of them reported never having had vaginal, anal, or oral sex at any point. However, just because someone does it once, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will remain sexually active throughout their lives.
For a variety of reasons, many people go through long periods of sexlessness, and a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some insight into just how common this is. This study is the subject of my latest column over at TONIC and it’s based on 14 years of data from the U.S. General Social Survey.
What the authors of this study found is that approximately 1 in 7 men and 1 in 4 women said they didn’t have any sexual partners in the past year. In addition, 1 in 11 men and 1 in 6 women said that they hadn’t had any partners in the past five years. As you can see, some people went for very long stretches of time without being sexually active. However, it’s important to note that “sex” wasn’t defined in this study, so we don’t necessarily know what people were counting when they answered these questions.
With that said, I should highlight that the people who weren’t having sex weren’t any less happy than those who were sexually active. In other words, sexlessness doesn’t necessarily mean being unhappy. When you think about it, there are a few good reasons for this, not the least of which is that some people may be sexless by choice (e.g., asexual persons). Also, just because you’re having sex, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re having good sex (quality is more important than quantity, after all!).
To learn more about the link between sex and happiness, as well as some of the factors associated with sexlessness, check out the full article here.
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To learn more about this research, see: Kim, J. H., Tam, W. S., & Muennig, P. (2017). Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the US General Social Survey. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(8), 2403-2415.
Image Source: 123RF/Anastasia Ivlicheva
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >