Sex and young people, for one in 3 it is only virtual: alarm andrologists

Sia survey on Generation Z (16-35 years): over 1 million and 600 thousand have never had intercourse and around 220 thousand stable couples declare their abstinence

In Italy one boy in three only has virtual sex, while over 1 million and 600 thousand young people aged 18-35 have never had sexual intercourse and around 220 thousand stable couples of the same age group declare their abstinence from sex. The proverbial ‘hormonal storm’, the ardors of late adolescence and the beginning of adulthood, in Generation Z they therefore seem to collide with cultural blocks, insecurity and fragility. This is the alarm raised by Italian andrologists who are also concerned about “the consequences of the current collapse in birth rates in our country and the boom in impotence among young people”. Photographing the crisis of young people and sex is an investigation promoted by the Italian Society of Andrology (Sia) as part of the andrological awareness and prevention campaign, which involved, among others, the Italian Army, the Red Cross Italian (Cri), and was conducted by the Iulm University of Milan, on a sample of 500 young males, aged 16 to 35 and their partners.


Objective of the research: to explore, through a questionnaire, the changes in sexual habits after the pandemic, the virtualisation of couple relationships, the current state of andrological prevention to increase young people’s awareness also through materials and commercials published on all SIA social networks and on the website “THE Preliminary survey results show that Generation Z’s relationship with sex is complicated and contradictory – declares Alessandro Palmieri, president of Sia and professor of Urology at the Federico II University of Naples -. Sexuality in the under 35s appears increasingly detached from the relational and reproductive component, and this is reflected in the lack of satisfaction in real relationships, 50% of the sample, and in the use of only virtual sex for one boy in three. This trend silently fuels the phenomenon of the birth rate decline with serious repercussions therefore also on society itself due to the establishment of a sexuality mediated by social media and the Internet, with one major absence: physical contact. This also has an impact on sexual disorders.”

“For several years we have been faced with an increase in problems affecting young people, which the pandemic has contributed to exacerbating due to isolation. Many boys complain of erectile dysfunction attributable to the virtualization of the relationship, excess pornography and autoeroticism. So a boy who approaches sexuality can be intimidated or intimidated, feeling inadequate.” In fact, it is worrying that 11% of young people declare that they use the online world almost exclusively to find sexual partners and 30% use erotic chats and pornographic sites on a daily basis. “This difficulty – continues the expert – means that young people, before turning to the specialist, look for information online about their problems. While 68% declare that they know who the andrologist is, 58% consider it very important to carry out preventive visits, then in fact 74% of young people respond that they have never had an andrological examination and 83.9% declare that they do not carry out regular check-ups”.

What worries andrologists, in addition to virtual sex, porn and autoeroticism, is also the ‘peace of mind’ declared by many young people, with sexual behaviors such as abstinence becoming increasingly widespread. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 1.6 million 18-35 year olds who have never had sex in their life and around 220 thousand stable couples aged 18-35 who have given up or almost completely given up on sex. “In a context characterized by alterations in sexuality, ranging from the frequent use of virtual intimate relationships to actual abstinence, it becomes really difficult to imagine or predict improvements in future birth rates in Italy, which are already at historic lows today”, underlines Palmieri.

In terms of knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases, there is a strong gap between what young people would like to do and what they actually do. The data that emerged in the presence of these diseases say that only 8% of young people talked about it with the doctor or 12% at home, compared to around 70% who instead searched for information independently online or received information at school /university. What is missing is not only communication with the doctor, parents and school, but also with the partner. Only 8.1% of males spoke freely about sexually transmitted diseases with their partner. On the other hand, the responses to the partners’ questionnaire show that 38.1% of them declare that they want to speak to the male in case of doubts regarding sexual diseases. Interestingly, 74% of partners say they talk about sex freely compared to 63% of males.

“The identikit of Generation Z that emerged from our survey clearly demonstrates the importance of information and awareness campaigns on male sexual health in young people – concludes Palmieri -. With our awareness campaign we want to reach this segment of the male population in order to raise awareness of the importance of andrological prevention for a healthy and satisfying sexual life”.