Frequency Of Sex Before Marriage: Statistics & Trends

By the age of 44, 95% of survey respondents reported having premarital sex, and about two-thirds of the American public views it as acceptable.
split screen image displaying a donut chart graphic depicting that 75% of americans have had premarital sex by the age of 20 on the left and a photograph of a couple's hands making a heart shape on the right
Updated:December 2023

One study found that by the age of 44, 95% of survey respondents reported having premarital sex. [13]

Additionally, 65% of the American public views sex before marriage as acceptable. [9]

Key Statistics To Know:

  • In one study, 99% of respondents had had sex by the age of 44, and 95% had done so before marriage. [13]
  • Premarital sex rose in adolescent women from 28.6% in 1970 to 51.5% in 1988. [5]
  • One 2020 study revealed that 40.9% of unmarried men and 47.9% of unmarried women have sex weekly or more. [7]
  • 65% of the American public views premarital sex between committed adult partners as acceptable. [9]
  • In 2002, only 3.3% of Americans did not have premarital sex by the age of 44. [13]
  • In the United States, premarital sex declines as family income rises: 70% of low-income teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have premarital sex compared to 47% of higher-income girls in the same age range. [11]

In this article, we will share statistics relating to premarital sex, attitudes toward sex before marriage (and how they have shifted in recent decades), correlations between unmarried sex and divorce, along with data on premarital abstinence.

Sex Before Marriage Statistics

donut chart depicting that by the age of 44, 99% of people had sex with 95% having done so before marriage
  • According to one study, 99% of respondents had had sex by the age of 44, and 95% had done so before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until the age of 20 or older, 81% engaged in premarital sex by age 44. [13]
  • 88.8% of women between the ages of 15-44 were recorded to have had premarital intercourse in the survey years of 2011 to 2015. [2]
  • 89.9 % of men between the ages of 20 – 44 were recorded to have had premarital intercourse in the survey years of 2011 to 2015. [2]
  • Premarital sex among adult men is on a slight downward trend from 91.3% in 2002 to 89.9% in 2015. Premarital sex among adult women is on a small upward trend from 84.9% in 2022 to 88.8% in 2015. [2]
  • Of women born in the USA between the years of 1969 and 1978, the percentage of those who had sex by the age of 25 rose from 83% to 87%. [4]
  • Premarital sex rose in adolescent women from 28.6% in 1970 to 51.5% in 1988. [5]
  • Ueda and Colleague’s research (2020) published in the National Library of Medicine revealed that 40.9% of unmarried men and 47.9% of unmarried women have sex weekly or more. [7]

Sex before marriage has certainly become the norm over the last century.  In addition, marriage has become less common as well, so for some, “premarital” sex is the only sex they’re having.

Does Religion Influence Attitudes Toward Premarital Sex?

bar graph depicting that 62% of catholics, 56% of black tradition protestants, 54% of mainline protestants, and 36% of evangelical protestants in america believe that casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable
  • According to Pew Research Center’s sex before marriage statistics, 65% of the American public views premarital sex between committed adult partners as acceptable. [9]
  • According to a Pew Research study from 2020, 62% of Catholics, 56% of Protestants (historically Black), 54% of mainline Protestants, and 36% of evangelical Protestants believe that casual sex (between partners not in a romantic relationship) is sometimes or always acceptable. [10]
  • 57% of Christians say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is acceptable, as well as 67% of mainline Protestants, 64% of Catholics, 57% of Protestants (historically Black) and 46% of evangelical Protestants. [10]
  • 95% of agnostics and 94% of atheists say that sex between unmarried adults (casual sex) is sometimes or always acceptable. [10]
  • 12% of people who attend religious services at least monthly report that it is “always or sometimes acceptable” to have sex with someone on a first date, compared to 38% who attend religious services less than monthly. [10]
  •  46% of U.S. adults who go to religious services at least once each month feel that sex between adults who are unmarried and in a committed relationship is “sometimes or always acceptable,” compared to 74% of those who attend religious services less often. [10]
  • In 1968, 15% of women approved of premarital sex with 40% of 19-year-old females partaking in premarital sex. By 1983, 45% of women approved of premarital sex with 73% of 19-year-old females partaking in premarital sex. [11]

Premarital Sex In America Statistics

donut chart depicting that 75% of americans have had premarital sex by the age of 20
  • 95% of Americans have premarital sex by the age of 44. [13]
  • In 2002, only 3.3% of Americans did not have premarital sex by the age of 44. [13]
  • 75% of Americans have had premarital sex by the age of 20. [13]
  • 81% of Americans had premarital sex by the age of 30. [13]
  • According to a survey of American teens, 48% believed that the biggest risk to premarital sex was pregnancy and STDs; 37% believed that the biggest risk to premarital sex was breaking up or cheating; 7% believed that the biggest risk to premarital sex was loss of reputation. [14]
  • In the United States, premarital sex declines as family income rises. 70% of low-income girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have premarital sex. By comparison, 47% of higher-income girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have premarital sex. [11]

Premarital sex is common, though socioeconomic status does play a role.

Premarital sex does carry risks, and being at a lower income can compound these risks.

Statistics On Premarital Sex And Divorce

donut chart depicting that divorce rates were 64% higher among individuals who had premarital sex compared to those who had abstained from it
  • 84% of surveyed divorced couples reported having had premarital sex with partners aside from the partner they married. [15]
  • Divorce rates were 64% higher in individuals who had premarital sex with 1-8 partners than those who only had premarital sex with their eventual spouse. [15]
  • Women with exactly two premarital sex partners have consistently higher divorce rates compared to women with 1 or fewer premarital sex partners and women with 3 to 9 premarital sex partners. [16]
  • In the 1980s, women who had exactly two premarital sex partners had a higher divorce rate of approximately 28% after five years compared to women with more than ten premarital sex partners who had an approximate 18% divorce rate after five years of marriage. [16]
  • In the 2000s, however, women who had exactly two premarital sex partners had a divorce rate of approximately 30% after five years compared to women with ten or more partners, who had an approximate divorce rate of 33% after five years of marriage. [16]

While premarital sex itself does not cause divorce, having more partners can sometimes relate to difficulties with commitment or secure attachment in relationships.

However, that does not automatically mean those with more partners are doomed to divorce; many also have happy marriages.

Statistics About Premarital Abstinence And Marital Sex

donut chart depicting that by the age of 44, 3.3% of individuals had abstained from sex until marriage
  • In a 2002 survey, 3.3% of adults aged 44 abstained from sex until marriage. [13]
  • By the age of 20, 75% of individuals had premarital sex. By the age of 44, 99% of Americans had sex and 95% had premarital sex. [13]
  • By the age of 44, 1.3% of individuals neither married nor had premarital sex. [13]
  • According to a survey of American teens, 54% believed that sexual intimacy before marriage could enhance and strengthen relationships; 40% believed that premarital sex allows individuals to test their sexual compatibility; 26% believed the main benefit of premarital sex is physical pleasure; 11% believed that the biggest advantage of premarital sex was gaining sexual knowledge and competency. [14]

Despite abstinence-only education in the 2000s, premarital sexual abstinence is rare.  Many feel that premarital sex carries benefits, though of course there are also risks.

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