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Not tonight: Americans are having less sex than we were 25 years ago

The study found a sharp drop in sexual activity among all demographics, especially those who are married or living with partners.
/ Source: TODAY

So much for Americans being obsessed with sex.

Adults in the U.S. are having less sex than we were 25 years ago, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Using data from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 American adults from 1989-2014, a team of researchers found a drop in sexual activity across all demographics regardless of gender, race, region, work status and education level.

Overall, American adults are having sex about nine times fewer per year since 1989-1994. The most significant drops were found among people in their 50s, people with a college degree, people with school-aged children, people in the South and, interestingly, those who don't watch pornography.

Couples aren't coupling

One factor behind the decline is today's higher percentage of unpartnered people — who tend to have sex about half as frequently as partnered people. But the study's most surprising finding was a sharp drop in sexual activity among couples.

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Married couples, or those who live with a partner, went from having sex 73 times a year in 1990 to about 55 times in 2014. That number is even below the frequency for never-married people, who have sex an average of 59 times a year.

"While it is the case that partnered individuals have sex more frequently than unpartnered individuals, this difference has been shrinking," Ryne Sherman, Ph.D., co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology in Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, told TODAY via email.

In the early 2000s, Sherman said, unmarried individuals surpassed married individuals in terms of total sexual frequency. Sherman suggested two reasons for the drop:

1. Age has a very strong effect on sexual frequency.

2. People are getting married later today than in the past.

When the researchers controlled for age, partnered individuals still had a sexual frequency advantage overall, though that advantage is diminishing.

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The causes are unclear

While the researchers aren't sure what's causing the drop in sexual activity, they ruled out work-related exhaustion. The study found that those who worked more hours tended to have more sex.

Some possible causes include more options for entertainment like streaming videos or social media, said Sherman. Or it could be because of declines in happiness, an increase in depression and changing gender roles.

Unsurprisingly, the study found a steady decline in frequency of sexual activity as people get older. While those in their 20s have sex more than 80 times a year, the number drops to 60 times a year for 45-year-olds, and 20 times a year by the time folks hit 65.

RELATED: What ‘Hookup Culture’? Millennials having less sex than their parents

Yet even today's 20-somethings are less sexually active than 20-somethings from yesteryear. In a 2016 study, Sherman and his co-authors Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, and Brooke Wells at the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University, found that millennials and the generation after them (Generation Z) had fewer sexual partners than their Generation X predecessors.

Now with the researcher's new study, they know Millennials are having sex less frequently, too.