Less Sex, No Problem?

According to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, American adults are having less sex now than their counterparts were thirty years ago. During the 1990s the average US adult was engaging in sexual activity sixty to sixty-two times per year. By 2014 that number has dropped to fifty-three. When you consider married Americans, the difference is even greater: down from sex seventy-three times per year in 1990 to fifty-five times in 2014. This study also revealed that Americans have become “less coupled.”

With a seemingly never-ending surplus of accessible technology, and as we become seemingly busier by the minute, the initial response to this finding may be less than surprising. But how troubling is it to Americans? While some may find the reality of a declining sex life worrisome, some simply see it as reality. There are only so many hours in the day for work, personal responsibilities, hobbies, and much of the spare time left over is filled with browsing social media (admit it, you know it’s true).

Should Americans be worried about the loss of frequency of sexual activity? Sexual activity can provide a wide range of health benefits by lowering blood pressure, alleviating stress, releasing dopamine, increasing cardiovascular activity, and offering intimate interaction. Sure, there are plenty of risks that come with sexual activity but sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies are preventable.

So, if sex is pleasurable and has so many benefits, why are we having less of it? This is a question experts disagree on, though there is a common theme: generational progress. People are simply getting sick of sex, there is just…more now. More media, more opportunity for experiences, less tradition.

An earlier study by the same researchers looked at the level of happiness of American adults to determine the driving force behind the loss of sexual interest. While their study can’t make a direct link to the decline in sexual activity, they did find a similar decline in happiness over the last thirty years. “You have many more women and men working to create a two-income family to stay middle class or above,” notes Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington in a March 7 Washington Post piece on the new study. “People’s minds are occupied with things other than the physical connection, and that has increased in modern life, and especially from the ’80s and ’90s and forward.”

Another study suggests—and this should come as no surprise—that technology has captivated us to the point of extinguishing basic sexual desires. Every year, media consumption is growing. According to Nielsen, US adults consume over ten hours of media per day, and that number is rising. Who has time for sex? Interestingly, the decline in sexual activity is less frequent for regular pornography viewers. The largest decline was found in college grads in their fifties who live in the south and do not view pornography.

Again, is it bad that Americans are having less sex? Many would agree that sex isn’t the most important thing in the world, nor is it the only way humans can form meaningful and intimate relationships. However, aside from missing the health benefits of sexual activity, it’s concerning that Americans are simply too distracted to do it and others are too concerned with how others perceive them through social media, more concerned about competition and doing more and better than other people than about maintaining close intimate and physical relationships.

Perhaps humanity will find itself at a point in the future when we have transcended beyond sexual activity. We may indeed hasten that future if we continue to ignore each other.