When it comes to sexual peaks, we might think of the carefree years, when we’re younger and free of dependents, as a natural zenith. But we’d be wrong.
In fact, there’s one group of adults who consistently have sex more often than any other, and it might come as a surprise to those who think having young children is all about sleep deprivation and mopping mashed food off the furniture. American couples in households with children under the age of six report having sex over 80 times per year, according to a new study led by the University of San Diego, more than those with no kids, and those with older kids.
Of course, parents already have a leg up over non-parents in that people who live together have more ready access to sex, while couples with younger children are also more likely to be younger themselves (sex tends to decline with age). People who are married or living with a steady partner consistently report have more sex per year than single people or those in more casual relationships.
That said, across the board, the amount of sex Americans have is falling:
Despite living in an evermore sexually liberal culture (sex education is more widespread, contraception more available, and sexual preferences more accepted), Americans aren’t as up for the activity.
Not only did the San Diego study find that people in the US on average are having sex less often, but also that young people (aged 18 to 29) are having less sex than those of previous generations. The researchers looked at data from the General Social Survey, a University of Chicago survey of adult Americans across the country that’s been conducted almost every year since 1972. The San Diego study looked at its results gathered between 1989 and 2010, and found that by the end of that period people on average reported having sex nine fewer times per year than those in the the 1990s. The results held true across ethnicities, geography, and gender.
The biggest decline came from those married and cohabiting couples. Although they continue to have more sex than other groups, they reported having less sex overall. Among parents, the sharpest decline came from parents with children aged between six and 12.
The researchers noted some possible reasons for the overall drop off, while ruling out the obvious. There was no correlation between increased working hours or increased pornography watching and decreased sex. In fact, people who reported high instances of both were also more likely to be sexually active.
Instead, the researchers hypothesized that people are lured by a larger range of activities these days, from social media to binge-watching Netflix, all of which may leave less time for lovemaking. They also noted that the decline in sex frequency corresponded to a decline in happiness in people over age 30 captured by other studies, and to more time spent with one’s children.
People in the US are also getting married later, and therefore spending more of their twenties single, than previous generations. That leaves people having less sex for longer as singles, and then less sex than previous generations once married (since sex in marriage is also on the decline).