5 Major Reasons Why Younger Generations Aren’t Getting Married
Written by Leann Poston, M.D.
Is marriage necessary for a happy life? Approximately 17% of women and 16% of men say that marriage is essential for them to have a fulfilling life. Over half of Americans say that marriage is important but not critical. About 30% say marriage is not important.
Younger adults are more likely than older adults to believe that marriage does not equal happiness. Marriage rates have continued to decline from a high in the 1960s to 58% of Americans in 1990 to 50% in 2017 (Barroso, 2020). While marriage rates are declining, divorce rates are rising.
Americans are more likely to say that career enjoyment is more important than marriage, with 57% of men saying career enjoyment is essential and 46% of women agreeing (Barroso, 2020). Two-thirds of those polled between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that society would be just as well off if people prioritized things other than marriage and children (Aang & Parker, 2014).
Marriage may not be a priority, but what about sex?
A study that enrolled 4291 men and 5213 women found that both the frequency of sexual activity and the number of sexual partners has decreased in 18 to 24 year old men between 2000-2002 and 2016-2018. There was a decline in sexual activity in women of the same age group, but it was not as significant. Sexual inactivity over the past year in men 18 to 24 years rose from almost 19 percent to nearly 30 percent (Ueda et al., 2020).
Declines in sexual frequency were seen across gender, race, region, educational level, and work status. This outcome seems counterintuitive, given that birth control is more reliable and widely available, and sex before marriage is more acceptable than in the past (Twenge et al., 2017). Is the decline in sex and marriage due to a shift in relationship priorities, environmental factors, or lack of time?
Statistics have shown that, on average, married couples have better physical health, more financial stability, and greater social mobility than unmarried people. Marriage cuts the rate of child poverty by 80 percent (Heritage Foundation, 2019). Social pressure may influence decisions to get married, but the pressure does not seem to drive more couples to the alter.
Social pressure in terms of a “failure to launch syndrome” may also affect marriage rates, sexual relationships, and having children. Young adults are postponing learning to drive, moving out, dating, and getting married. Men marry at a median age of 30 and women at a median age of 28. In 2014, over seven million American men ages 25 to 54 were neither working nor looking for work (Hendriksen, 2019). COVID-19 has only worsened the financial status of young adults. It is more difficult to date and engage in sexual activity when you are dependent on your parents economically (Twenge, 2020).
Depressive symptoms are higher in recent generations. These symptoms are associated with reduced sexual desire. Likewise, a decreased sexual desire is associated with increased depressive symptoms (Atlantis & Sullivan, 2012). A vicious cycle exacerbated by online distractions, financial challenges, and shifting priorities.
As awareness of mental health issues grows, it is becoming increasingly important to identify and treat mental health disorders that are triggered or exacerbated by hormonal imbalances.
Read 7 Ways to Naturally Regulate Your Hormones to get practical tips and advice on making lifestyle choices that optimize your hormone levels
Online gaming, entertainment, and social interactions blur the line between fantasy and reality. No longer is going out in the evening the only option. The more easily accessible but pleasurable options such as streaming videos and online gaming compete.
An intriguing study compared 19 heavy internet gamers with a control group made up of non-gamers and then tested them on their decision-making abilities. The gaming group had a lower decision-making ability and a higher incidence of anxiety, hostility, paranoia, and interpersonal sensitivity. Despite the long-term consequences on their social or professional lives, gamers preferred to play (Pawlikowski & Brand, 2011).
Other studies have found that cell phones and digital interactions negatively impact relationships. When one partner takes out his or her cellphone, the other feels snubbed. This behavior reduces relationship satisfaction, particularly in romantic relationships (Twenge, 2020).
Read the Connection between Intimacy and Mental Health to learn more.
Dating Apps and Hook-Up Culture
Online dating websites and hook-up apps have made it easier for people to locate potential partners for both relationships and sex.
Widespread information online about sexuality can help answer questions about intimacy and sex, which would seem to decrease insecurities about sex. In a study that enrolled male and female college students from Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the US and examined their lifetime experience and frequency of experience with online sexual activities, this is what they found:
- 89.8% accessed sexual information
- 76.5% accessed sexual entertainment
- 48.5% browsed for sexual products
- 1.1% paid for online sexual services (Döring et al., 2017)
Dating apps are poorly regulated and can lead to abusive behavior. People of color report routine harassment on dating sites. Women are sent explicit images, and roughly one-third report sexual assault by someone they met on a dating app (Sales, 2021).
Dating apps promote an emphasis on appearance and impersonal connections. Almost three-fourths of men who use dating apps have experienced erectile dysfunction. A survey of 9,671 Tinder users found the nearly half use the app for “confidence-boosting procrastination.” Many men report feeling more anxious and depressed after using dating apps. Anxiety and depression are linked to ED. About 79% of men who experience ED also have anxiety (The Up Coming, n.d.).
Effective treatment is available for men with ED. It is a common problem experienced by over half of men at some point in their lives. Most men have an improvement in their symptoms using oral ED medications. For those who do not or who cannot take oral ED medications, Trimix is a great option.
Poor Work-Life Balance
Studies show that Americans are working more hours and spending more time with their children than ever before. These factors may have an impact on how much time is available to nurture adult relationships.
The following conclusions were drawn after studying the relationships between income, sexual behavior, and reported happiness were studied in 16,000 American adults:
- Sexual activity is strongly correlated with happiness
- A higher income does not lead to more sex or sexual partners
- Married people have more sex than any other group
- The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in a year is one (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004)
It would seem that working more hours could have a big impact on adult relationships. However, the General Social Survey showed that men who worked part-time, did not work at all, or were students were more likely to be sexually inactive than those who worked full time.
Read The Surprising Link Between Sex and Work Productivity to learn more.
Abstinence is the decision not to have sex. There are several theories as to why young adults, especially men, are choosing not to have sex. According to the research findings, exposure to pornography and longer working hours are not the answer. Competing online activities may be correlated with decreased frequency of sex, but not likely an explanation for choosing abstinence. Rising rates of depression and anxiety may be factors, as could economic factors (Ueda et al., 2020).
Erectile dysfunction affects many men at some point in their lives. Stressors such as societal pressures, digital distractions, a poor work-life balance, and voluntary or forced abstinence may all play a role. To learn more about potential treatment options, contact one of the online health practitioners at Invigor Medical today.
- Barroso, A. (2020, February 14). More than half of Americans say marriage is important but not essential to leading a fulfilling life. Retrieved from Pewresearch.org website: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/14/more-than-half-of-americans-say-marriage-is-important-but-not-essential-to-leading-a-fulfilling-life/
- Wang, W. & Parker, K. (2014, September 24). Record share of Americans have never married. Retrieved June 7, 2021, from Pewresearch.org website: https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/
- Ueda, P., Mercer, C. H., Ghaznavi, C., & Herbenick, D. (2020). Trends in frequency of sexual activity and number of sexual partners among adults aged 18 to 44 years in the US, 2000-2018. JAMA Network Open, 3(6), e203833.
- The Heritage Foundation. (2019). Why the declining marriage rate affects everyone. Retrieved June 7, 2021, from Heritage.org website: https://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/heritage-explains/why-the-declining-marriage-rate-affects-everyone
- Twenge, J.M., Sherman, R.A. & Wells, B.E. Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014. Arch Sex Behav 46, 2389–2401 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0953-1
- Atlantis E, Sullivan T. Bidirectional association between depression and sexual dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sex Med. 2012 Jun;9(6):1497-507. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02709.x. Epub 2012 Mar 29. PMID: 22462756.
- Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2004). Money, sex, and happiness: An empirical study. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 106, 393–415.
- Döring, N., Daneback, K., Shaughnessy, K., Grov, C., & Byers, E. S. (2015). Online sexual activity experiences among college students: A four-country comparison. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0656-4.
- Hendriksen, S. P. E. (2019, May 18). Failure to launch syndrome. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/failure-to-launch-syndrome/
- Pawlikowski M, Brand M. Excessive Internet gaming and decision making: do excessive World of Warcraft players have problems in decision making under risky conditions? Psychiatry Res. 2011 Aug 15;188(3):428-33. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.05.017. Epub 2011 Jun 17. PMID: 21641048.
- Twenge JM Possible Reasons US Adults Are Not Having Sex as Much as They Used To. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e203889. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3889
- Sales, NJ (2021, May 18). Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/online-dating-apps-are-a-disaster/
- (N.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2021, from Theupcoming.co.uk website: https://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2019/06/19/why-people-with-ed-are-more-likely-to-use-dating-apps/