Interest in sex is not on the decline, even though average rates for the frequency of sexual intercourse have fallen. The latest FINSEX survey, carried out by the Family Federation of Finland, shows that at least one form of sexual activity, masturbation, has steadily risen decade after decade in all age groups and for both men and women.
The data is based on a representative sample of the entire adult population from surveys in 1971, 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015.
On the whole, the frequency of masturbation was found to have risen by 10 percentage points between 2007 and 2015. For women between the ages of 22-44, it shot up by 20 percentage points.
Men continue to more actively engage in autoeroticism, although women are catching up. According to Family Federation Research Professor Osmo Kontula, this reflects the fact that nowadays girls begin masturbating during puberty at nearly the same age as do boys.
"This is an indicator that in future the difference in figures between men and women will narrow even more," says Kontula.
Kontula describes the increasing frequency of masturbation as a long-term trend, based on the fact that each new generation has been more active than the previous one. As members of these generations age, they either continue at the same level of activity or even masturbate more.
"The young are no longer frightened or anxious about whether or not it's alright to do it. As recently as in the 1950s, textbooks warned of all the health risks involved if you did," Osmo Kontula explains.
He also notes that over the decades masturbation has become increasingly acceptable, even recommended.
"Public perception of the subject has fundamentally changed. Once upon a time people were frightened by tales of the dangers. Nowadays, it's advised that one should get to know one's own body and the pleasures."
Not just singles
According to the findings of the latest FINSEX survey, masturbation has also sharply risen among people who live with a partner. On average, Finns are engaging in intercourse less frequently and masturbation compensates to some extent when a partner lacks the desire for sex.
Busy lifestyles, stress and fatigue are often cited as the reasons people don't have sex more often. Kontula points out that sexual intercourse requires that two people are both in the mood at the same time. But, one can turn to self-gratification whenever it feels like the thing to do.
"It used to be thought inappropriate, if one had a regular partner or a spouse. Today, people no longer think like that," says Professor Kontula.