The share of U.S. adults reporting no sex in the past year reached an all-time high in 2018, underscoring a three-decade trend line marked by an aging population and higher numbers of unattached people.
Experts who study Americans' bedroom habits say there are a number of factors driving the Great American Sex Drought. Age is one of them: The 60 and older demographic climbed from 18 percent of the population in 1996 to 26 percent in 2018, according to the survey. The share reporting no sex has consistently hovered around 50 percent, and because that age group is growing relative to everyone else, it has the net effect of reducing the overall population's likelihood of having sex.
But changes at the other end of the age spectrum may be playing an even bigger role. The portion of Americans 18 to 29 reporting no sex in the past year more than doubled between 2008 and 2018, to 23 percent.
Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy - and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, said in an interview that growing sexlessness among America's twentysomethings is primarily attributable to partnering up later in life.
Americans in their 30s, 40s and beyond, meanwhile, are much more likely to be married than those in their 20s. These age groups are now considerably more likely to have sex in a given year than their younger peers.
The data also show a significant gender divide among twentysomethings.
For most of the past three decades, twentysomething men and women reported similar rates of sexlessness. But that's changed in recent years. Since 2008, the share of men younger than 30 reporting no sex has nearly tripled, to 28 percent. That's a much steeper increase than the 8 percentage point increase reported among their female peers.
The survey showed, for instance, that 54 percent of unemployed Americans didn't have a steady romantic partner, compared with only 32 percent among the employed.
One final factor that may be affecting Americans' sexual habits at all ages is technology. "There are a lot more things to do at 10 o'clock at night now than there were 20 years ago," Twenge said. "Streaming video, social media, console games, everything else."
Underscoring this point, the share of people who are having relations once a week or more is on a downward trajectory: from 51 percent in 1996 to 39 percent today.