Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey

Abstract

Although sexual activity is commonly believed to be a key component of emotional well-being, little is known about the factors associated with the absence of sexual activity or its associations with self-reported happiness. Using the U.S. General Social Survey–National Death Index 2008 dataset, a series of nationally representative surveys (1988–2002), this study analyzed the sociodemographic and lifestyle factors associated with past-year sexlessness and self-reported happiness among American adults (n = 17,744). After adjustment for marital status, there were no significant time trends evident in the proportion of American adults reporting past-year sexlessness. Among participants (age = 18–89 years), 15.2% of males and 26.7% of females reported past-year sexlessness while 8.7% of males and 17.5% of females reported no sex for 5 years or more. For both genders, past-year sexlessness was most strongly associated with older age and being currently non-married in the multivariable models. Among males, the multivariable analysis also showed that sexlessness was associated with providing less than 20% of the household income (OR 2.27). In female participants, sexlessness was associated with very low income, poor health, lower financial satisfaction, absence of children, and having conservative sexual attitudes (OR 1.46–3.60). For both genders, Black race was associated with a much lower likelihood of sexlessness among currently non-married adults. The purported detrimental impact of sexlessness on self-reported happiness levels was not evident in this large, nationally representative study after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Sexless Americans reported very similar happiness levels as their sexually active counterparts.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (5 R21 HD075664-02).

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Correspondence to Peter Muennig.

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The General Social Survey–National Death Index was approved by the Columbia University Medical Center Institutional Review Board.

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Kim, J.H., Tam, W.S. & Muennig, P. Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey. Arch Sex Behav 46, 2403–2415 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0968-7

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Keywords

  • Sexual activity
  • Abstinence
  • Virginity
  • Asexuality
  • Celibacy
  • DSM-5