Young people are having less sex than their parents, study finds

US research also reveals young women more likely to be sexually inactive than men

romance, sex

Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Young people are having less sex than previous generations, despite their widespread use of dating and hook-up apps, according to a new study.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that Americans born in the early 1990s were significantly more likely to report no sexual partners after the age of 18 than adults born in the late 1960s.

The report, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, concluded that only those born in the 1920s have less sex than millenials. 

Young women are more likely to be sexually inactive than men, white people more than black, and those who did not attend college more than those who did.

Some 15% of 20- to 24-year-olds had no sexual partners since turning 18, compared to 6% of those born in the 1960s, the study found.

The generational gap is biggest among women: 5.4% of women born in the 1990s are sexually inactive, compared to 2.3% of those in the 60s-born group. This contrasts to a rise from 1.7% to 1.9% among men. 

“This study really contradicts the widespread notion that millennials are the ‘hookup’ generation, which is popularised by dating apps like ‘Tinder’ and others, suggesting that they are just looking for quick relationships and frequent casual sex,” said co-author Prof Ryne Sherman.

“Our data show that this doesn’t seem to be the case at all and that millennials are not more promiscuous than their predecessors.”

The researchers cite a number of potential reasons for the shift, including more sex education and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, easy access to pornography because of technology, or differing definitions of sexual activity (whether it includes oral sex, for example).

“While attitudes about premarital sex have become more permissive over time, rise in individualism allows young American adults to have permissive attitudes without feeling the pressure to conform in their own behavior,” Mr Sherman said.

The study of almost 27,000 people collated data from the General Social Survey, which has looked at sexual behaviour among US adults almost every year since 1989.