More Young American Adults, Especially the Religiously Devout, Are Choosing Abstinence

Milton Quintanilla | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Nov 15, 2021
More Young American Adults, Especially the Religiously Devout, Are Choosing Abstinence

More Young American Adults, Especially the Religiously Devout, Are Choosing Abstinence

According to the 2021 General Society Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, more young American adults under 35 years of age are having less sex than in past generations, especially among those who are religiously devout.

The findings, which were featured in a research brief from the Institute for Family Studies, showed that the number of young adults refraining from sex more than doubled from 2008 to 2021, from 8 percent to about 21 percent.

Since 2010, “there has been a sharp rise in the share of males and females ages 18 to 35 who report not having sex in the prior year,” IFS research fellow Lyman Stone reported.

According to The Christian Post, he noted the trend of delayed marriage was one reason for the increase in sexlessness among young adults.

“Married people are more likely to be sexually active than unmarried people: in 2021, only about 5 percent of ever-married people under 35 reported no sex in the past year, versus about 29 percent of the never-married. As a result, declining marriage tends to reduce sexual activity as married people make up a shrinking share of the population of people under 35,” Stone said.

Citing data from the General Society survey, Stone pointed out that “the never-married share of under-35s rose from just over 50 percent in the early 1990s, to 60-75 percent over the last decade.”

Another reason young people are choosing not to have sex stems from the belief that sex before marriage is morally wrong. In the survey, opinions of premarital sex remained consistent over the past 15 years, with 70 percent approving and 30 percent disapproving of the action.

Stone also noted that young people who think premarital sex is wrong are typically about two or three times more likely to stay away from sexual relations for multiple decades.

“It seems like most of the increase in sexlessness among never-married under-35s has been among those who say premarital sex is at least sometimes wrong,” he said.

Stone noted that most young adults who forgo sex are primarily from the religiously devout, who believe premarital sex is wrong.

“While there has perhaps been a modest increase in sexual abstinence among religious non-attenders or occasional attenders, the lion’s share of the increase in sexlessness has been among the relatively religiously devout,” he explained.

“Since 2008, among never-married individuals under age 35 who attend religious services more than monthly, the rate of sexlessness has risen from about 20 percent to nearly 60 percent in 2021,” he continued. “Among their less religious peers, sexlessness has risen from around 10 percent in 2008 to 20 percent in 2021.”

Stone also argued that the abstinence from sex has nothing to do with pornography use but that young adult Christians today are choosing to honor their religious vows more closely than from prior generations.

“Perhaps religious young adults are simply complying with the norms of their communities more determinedly than previous generations,” he wrote. “In this scenario, we aren’t seeing religious young people change their metaphysics to validate sexual liaisons, but rather, we’re seeing religious young adults adopt more intense behavioral norms than prior generations.”

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/Ivanko Brnjakovic

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for CrosswalkHeadlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.

More Young American Adults, Especially the Religiously Devout, Are Choosing Abstinence