New Survey Finds More than Half of Americans Report Sexual Difficulties – National Coalition Launches New Guide to Address Sexual Concerns and Increase Pleasure

Media Contacts:

Lisa Guiterman, 301-347-7964 or 202-330-3431,
Susan Gilbert, 703-304-6774,  

Washington, DC AND BLOOMINGTON – While many predicted that widespread COVID vaccination would lead to a significant increase in sexual activity (aka “Hot Vax Summer”), a new survey found over half of Americans (ages 18-35) reported sexual difficulties during the pandemic, including low sexual interest, mismatched sex drives, and trouble orgasming. Led by Kinsey Institute Research Fellow, Dr. Justin Lehmiller, the results underscore how the COVID pandemic continues to affect our lives, even in the bedroom – and surprisingly reveals that for singles, avoiding sex altogether was the most common solution for dealing with sexual difficulties. The National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH), consisting of 200+ leading health/medical organizations and experts, today launched a Guide to Sexual Concerns and Pleasure to help Americans enjoy more satisfying sex lives during the ongoing pandemic and beyond.

“A lot of people assume sexual difficulties take the greatest toll on older Americans,” Dr. Lehmiller says. “However, our study revealed that reports of sexual difficulties were unexpectedly consistent across age groups, including among younger adults. While physical health issues are more likely to cause difficulties in older populations, psychological issues often take a major toll on young adults’ sex lives. During the pandemic, young adults felt disproportionately stressed and lonely, both of which are known causes of sexual problems. Since young adults are also less likely to be in established relationships, they may be less comfortable discussing sexual matters with their partners, which can make it harder to find solutions,” Dr. Lehmiller added.

While people in relationships still experienced sexual difficulties, they fared better overall than singles during the COVID pandemic, with 42% reporting more satisfying sex lives vs. only 20% of singles. So, what’s the secret sauce? It seems communication is key, and variety is the spice of life. As the survey showed, 47% of people in relationships increased their communication with partners to deal with sexual problems vs. only 15% of singles. And, 60% of people in relationships tried new sexual activities vs. 42% of singles. Sometimes the solution is as simple as trying new sexual activities and/or using new products, such as sex toys and lube. 

Solid communication between partners is essential, but a good sex life starts with understanding and exploring your own body, what arouses you, and what gives you pleasure. Since pleasure is rarely included in American sex ed, and shame is often associated with talking about sex, it’s no surprise that most of us feel ill-equipped.  

The new Guide to Sexual Concerns and Pleasure, which includes many resources, is a good place to start for self-education. For many people, a pleasurable sex life is key to overall health and well-being. In fact, it can make you feel good, increase intimacy, boost your mood, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and even decrease pain.

And since talking about sex, and particularly pleasure, is taboo in many American families, our upbringing often doesn’t help either. “Growing up, your parents probably never taught you that sex should feel good, or that masturbating, foreplay and using a good lube could increase sexual pleasure,” according to sex therapist and certified sexuality educator Dr. Tameca Harris-Jackson. “Desire and arousal are very subjective experiences, and some people can take longer than others to get turned on. So, it’s important for people to communicate with their partner(s) about what feels good, what they like and don’t like, and revisit that regularly as sexual desires and sex drives can change over time,” explained Dr. Harris-Jackson. 

While COVID may have exacerbated sexual difficulties, biological factors such as chronic health conditions, side effects from medications, and age-related changes can also affect sexual desire and functioning. If you think your sexual concerns could be rooted in physical causes, it might be best to start by seeing a health care provider. Yet, according to this survey, only 5% of women and 13% percent of men indicated that they consulted a doctor or therapist for sexual difficulties during the pandemic.

For instance, ongoing erectile dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying health condition like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes that needs treatment. Certain antidepressants, such as some SSRIs which increase serotonin in the brain, can reduce your sex drive or inhibit your ability to experience pleasure.  A wide variety of factors – such as childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause, uterine fibroids or endometriosis, and even medications for colds, allergies and depression -- can all cause vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful sex.

“Talking about sexual concerns might feel awkward, which is no surprise, given the culture we live in. But, suffering in silence and not addressing your concerns can be even worse. If your health care provider doesn’t bring it up, you could start the conversation by saying something like, “I’m having some trouble with my sex life,” or “My sex life isn’t what I want it to be.” A good health care provider will take care of your whole body, including your sexual health. And if they don’t, it may be time to look for a new one,” according to Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, CEO, Power to Decide.

While sex—in many different forms—can do amazing things for your mood, mind, and emotional intimacy with your partner(s)—common mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, can cause sexual difficulties. Similarly, sexual trauma can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional and physical health, often affecting sexual desire, arousal, and the ability to orgasm. And, for some, even amazing, enjoyable sex with a loving partner can be a triggering experience. Speaking about any of these concerns with a licensed mental health professional (e.g., social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist, sex therapist or a couple’s therapist) can not only help you improve your sex life, but also your overall mental health and well-being.

“Contrary to popular belief, sex therapy is talk therapy. You keep your clothes on, and there is no physical contact. Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals with specialized training who can help you address a variety of concerns that might be hindering your sex life, such as premature ejaculation, pain during vaginal penetration, or why sex went from exciting at the start of a relationship to feeling like a chore,” said Dr. Harris-Jackson.

Sex therapists are trained to listen to your concerns and recommend a variety of problem-solving techniques that support your needs, including partner communication strategies, reflective and practical homework activities, and exploring new options for sexual expression. To find a sex therapist near you or one who can provide support virtually, check out the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists’ referral directory.

Developed by the National Coalition for Sexual Health, the Guide to Sexual Concerns and Pleasure helps people understand common sexual concerns and take action to address them.  Available online, this free guide includes: common sexual concerns and their causes; practical solutions, such as self-education, partner communication, and seeking health care and/or therapy; scripts for talking with partners and professionals; and resources to learn more.     

About the National Coalition for Sexual Health

The National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH), with over 200 members, including leading national health, medical and consumer organizations, is working together to improve sexual health and well-being across the lifespan. For more information:

About the Kinsey Institute

For almost 75 years, the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University ( has been the premier research institute on human sexuality and relationships and a trusted source for evidence-based information on critical issues in sexuality, gender, and reproduction. The Kinsey Institute's research program integrates scholarly fields including neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, history, and gender studies. The Kinsey Institute Library and Special Collections encompass over 500,000 items spanning 2,000 years of human sexual behavior and are a destination research collection for scholars and students. Kinsey Institute outreach includes traveling art exhibitions, public scholarship, research lectures, and a human sexuality education program.

* Methodological Notes: This survey was independently funded by Lovehoney ( and conducted by Prodege ( among a demographically representative sample of 2,000 U.S. Adults age 18-45, with an oversample of 200 respondents who identify as LGBTQ, via an online survey, from May 27, 2021 to June 5, 2021. The sample was balanced to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. population on age, gender, household income, region, and ethnicity. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. For purposes of this press release, only data from the 18-35 demographic are presented.


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