Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report

Survey by country’s family planning association found that nearly half of married couples had not had sex for more than a month

As couples around the world prepare to celebrate their love on Valentine’s Day, Japan is grappling with more evidence that its citizens have lost the spark in the bedroom.

A new survey by the Japan family planning association found that nearly half of married couples had not had sex for more than a month and did not expect that to change in the near future – the association’s definition of a “sexless” marriage.

The data on married couples were among the findings of a wider survey of 3,000 people aged between 16 and 49 conducted at the end of last year. The association received responses from more than 1,200 people, including 655 married men and women.

A record high 47.2% of married men and women said they were in sexless marriages, up 2.6 percentage points from the previous poll in 2014, the association said, and significantly higher than the 31.9% recorded when it conducted its first survey of the nation’s bedroom habits in 2004.

“The tendency of being in a sexless marriage has increased further,” Japanese media quoted the association’s president, Kunio Kitamura, as saying.

Some experts have cast doubt on the notion that Japan has suffered a collective loss of libido, and point out that its people are not alone among industrialised nations in struggling to find the time for intimacy.

Tellingly, the highest rate of sexlessness was found among people in their mid- to late 40s – a time when the demands of work and family can be at their greatest.

More than 22% of all women surveyed said they found sex “troublesome”.

Among married men, 35.2% said that work left them “too tired” for intercourse – up dramatically from 21.3% in 2014 – while smaller numbers said they had come to see their wives solely as family members rather than as sexual partners, or that their sex lives had fizzled out after the birth of a child.

“This is the first time over 30% of men answered that they were too tired from work to have sex,” Kitamura said. “Apart from improving working hours, there is also a need to review how people work.”

Pressure to overhaul Japanese employment practices to allow more time for family life has increased in recent years, yet little action has been taken to cut working hours.

The government is expected to set an upper limit for overtime of around 60 hours a month in an attempt to address long working hours highlighted by the suicide of a 24-year-old employee of the advertising firm Dentsu who had worked more than 100 hours of overtime a month leading up to her death in late 2015.

A survey conducted last year suggested that Japan is experiencing a rise in the number of virgins.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research’s poll of 5,000 single men and women aged 18-34 found that the proportion of virgins had increased significantly over the past decade: among men, 42% said they had never had sex; among women the figure was 44%.

Experts pointed out, however, that the percentage of single male virgins had remained almost unchanged since the early 1990s, and that other industrialised nations, including Britain, the US and South Korea, were experiencing similar trends.

The apparent lack of interest in sex among married couples has been blamed for contributing to Japan’s low birth rate, as the country grapples with the prospect of long-term population decline and the economic fallout from a dwindling workforce.

Japan’s fertility rate – currently 1.4 children per woman – is unlikely to rise to the 2.1 level needed to ensure the stability of its population.

If current trends persist, Japan’s population of 127 million is expected to drop to around 86 million by 2060.


Justin McCurry in Tokyo

The GuardianTramp

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