While American society is increasingly open about sexual behavior, masturbation remains an understudied topic, and as such has been often overlooked. A new report by Austin Institute researchers, using data from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), provides an update on masturbation practices among young adults ages 18-39. The report reveals several predictable patterns, but also some unexpected ones. The report finds that men remain much more likely to masturbate than women—at all ages—and that masturbation frequency seems to be rising rather than remaining steady over time, likely due to its close association with pornography use. Indeed, 60 percent of men report masturbating within the past six days, including 35 percent in the past day. Women report frequencies of about half that of men. All of these figures are notably higher than sociologists reported in 1992, when population-based survey data on masturbation were first tracked. In other words, sexual demand is not stable over time, but rather can be technologically manipulated. However, there are costs: frequent masturbation is modestly associated with lower self-reported happiness as well as greater anxiety in relationships and difficulties navigating interpersonal relationships successfully, especially among men.
For more information read the full report.