Physical Intimacy Is Declining in a World Distracted by Smartphones

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A study spanning nearly three decades has revealed a sharp and suspicious drop in sexual frequency since 2012.

British couples are having less sex than ever, and smartphones may be to blame. A large study called the Natsal (National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle) collected data from 34,000 people at three different points over the last three decades – in 1991, 2001, and 2012. There was a moderate increase in sexual frequency between the first two surveys, but then it dropped off steeply after 2012.

The reason for this is isn't entirely clear, but researchers suggest that the decline coincides with the introduction of the smartphone in 2007. One of the study authors, Prof. Kaye Wellings, told the Guardian,

"There may be too much going on to get around to having sex. I can see that the boundary between the public world and private life is getting weaker. It’s porous. You get home and continue working, or continue shopping or buy tickets – everything except for... talking. You don’t feel close when you are constantly on the phone."

As addictive as the phone might be, it doesn't give humans the kind of satisfaction they're craving deep down. The study reveals that people aren't happy with the amount of sex they're having. Fewer than half of men and women have sex at least once a week, and the proportion of people having sex 10 times or more in the past month fell from 21% of women and 20% of men in 2001 to 13% of women and 14% of men in 2012.

More than half of respondents – 51 percent of women and 64 percent of men – said in 2012 that they'd like to have it more often. In 2001, those numbers were much lower – 39 and 51 percent, respectively.

The groups that saw the biggest decline in frequency were over-25s and married or cohabiting couples; whereas, "single people who were in better physical and mental health, and those who were employed and had higher incomes, all reported having more frequent sex."

The results are concerning because sex offers so many health benefits, from reducing stress, blood pressure, and heart rates, to improving cognitive function, physical fitness, and increasing life expectancy. Perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates a willingness to spend quality time with a partner and not be distracted by other unending demands. Lack of sex suggests a disconnected society, and that's something that should concern us all.

From the researchers' conclusion:

"The wider implications of the decline in sexual frequency are perhaps more worrying. Should frequency of sexual contact serve as a barometer for more general human connectedness then the decline might be signalling a disquieting trend. The decrease in sexual activity is interesting, unexplained and warrants further exploration."

Sounds like it's time to turn it off... and get it on.