New research found a staggering number of young people going at least a year without sex as “individualistic” behavior is just one of the factors contributing to the upward trend.
The pervasiveness of technology in everyday life is having a measurable impact on the sexual activity of the next generation, according to the findings of UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey. When comparing those aged 18-30 with those 31-64, there was nearly a 20% margin of those who had not had sex over a 12-month period.
“Young adults aren’t behaving the way their parents did,” wrote Phillip Reese for Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health News. “They’re not drinking as much, they’re facing more mental health challenges, and they’re living with their parents longer. On top of that, computer games and social media have become a sort of stand-in for physical relationships.”
According to the survey, in 2011, 22% of 18-30-year-olds reported 12 months of abstinence. By 2020, ahead of the impact of COVID, that number had climbed to roughly 32%, jumping once more to 38% in 2021.
Comparatively less than 15% of those aged 31-64 reported a year without sex in 2011, a figure which rose to 20% by 2021.
A breakdown in the numbers showed that the figures were even more dramatic for young men as the 2011 survey found both sexes reporting evenly, whereas by 2021 10% more men, at 43% overall, were going without sex.
Rutgers University sociologist Dr. Lei Lei, co-author of a study looking at young people's casual sex habits from 2007 to 2017, contended "The new generation of young adults became more individualistic and less social in real life, but more involved in social media and online gaming networks."
"They are busy with other domains of life," she added. "The changes in how young people socialize affect their opportunity to have casual sex, which often serves as a trial or rehearsal for long-term romantic relationships."
Economic factors were also said to be a contributing factor as over half of those in the 18-30 demographic that reported living below the poverty claimed no sexual partners while only a third of those among high earners attested to the same.
"Everything happens later," San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge said as younger people are taking longer to move out of their parents' homes and start families of their own.
Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Public Health, associated the behavior in widely accessible pornography as also having an impact on how younger people interact.
Often featuring either violence or coercion, Herbenick suggested a flawed perspective on sexual relationships has deterred them from personal pursuit. "Those kinds of behaviors are really, really normalized among young people."
"It can feel really lonely if you feel like people are rejecting you or wouldn't be interested in you," she added.
Seemingly unaddressed was the increasing number of young people identifying somewhere within the alphabet soup of the LGBT lexicon. In the UK alone, there had been reports of a 4,000 percent increase in girls being treated for gender dysphoria, a figure that left psychotherapist Stella O'Malley stating, "It's very well known that there's a lot of social contagion, for example, with suicide and with eating disorders."
"It's particularly common among adolescent girls because they have a tendency to co-ruminate together, to over identify with each other to kind of endlessly talk about their problems in a very sympathetic way to each other, but it can lead a kind of over-identification with each other's problems," she added.
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