New global trend: The Death of Sex?

A growing number of young adults are foregoing sex and, in many cases, intimate relationships entirely.

An August 2018 survey discovered that 64 percent of Japan’s 18-to-34-year-olds are virgins and the same proportion has never had a romantic relationship. Another study that month reported that 30 percent of Japanese men under age 30 have never dated. Also in August, the Japan Family Planning Association found that 45 percent of women and 26 percent of men ages 16 to 24 had no interest in, or even “despised” the idea of a sexual relationship.

As a result, fewer Japanese are coming into the world – so much so that adult diapers outsell children’s. From 2016 to 2017, Japan’s population fell by 300,000. The trend line shows the number plummeting by 900,000 a year by 2045.

Japan isn’t alone. Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Switzerland have birth rates roughly equal to Japan’s. Russia’s population is on trend to fall by almost a quarter by 2050.

The US birth rate fell to a record low in 2017, the second consecutive year that happened; 500,000 fewer babies were born, year on year. Birth control and women’s interest in their careers play a part but people also are having sex less often: adults told surveys they were having sex an average of five times a month in 1990, four in 2000, and three in 2010. Adults in Australia and Great Britain report similar declines.


This so-called “celibacy syndrome” has many causes: overwork, late-night television, peoples’ addiction to surfing the web in bed with their smartphones instead of turning to their partners. Studies in France and the UK correlate mens’ overindulgence in Internet pornography to a diminished interest in having actual sex; one investigation found that 50 percent of men addicted to on-line porn are impotent when it’s time to perform with a human.

Japan has nudged it birth rate up a little by guaranteeing free childcare and kindergarten to all families. But such small, though significant, measures are unlikely to reverse the trend in the near term in the developed world.

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