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What ‘Hookup Culture’? Millennials Having Less Sex Than Their Parents

For younger millennials, #netflixandchill really means watching TV.

According to a new study from Florida Atlantic University, the Millennial "hookup culture" myth of obsessively swiping right may be just that — a myth.

The Millennial generation includes people born between 1980 and 1994. The new study, published Tuesday in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, finds that younger Millennials — those born in the early 1990s and sometimes referred to as "the Snapchat Generation" — are 41 percent more likely to be sexually inactive than their Millennial peers born in the 1980s and more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive in their early 20s than 1960s-born Generation X'ers.

"It's counter to the popular notion that young people today are just wanting short-term relationships," Ryne Sherman, associate professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, and one of the study's researchers, said.

Related: More Americans Are OK with Same-Sex Experiences: Poll

The team analyzed data from more than 26,000 respondents to the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults that includes members of both the Millennial generation and its predecessor, Generation X.

Among Americans ages 20-24 now, the results showed 15 percent had no sexual partners since turning 18.

Young white people, young women, and those who haven't attended college report the highest levels of sexual inactivity.

Many millennials still go to their pediatricians - in their late 20s 2:26

The economy's role

Millennials, in general, have "positive" and "open-minded" sexual attitudes, so it's not fear or chastity that's making them refrain from sexual activity, said Sherman — though growing up with better sex education and AIDS awareness could play a role.

Other factors may include everything from the economy to the internet.

They're living with their parents longer and marrying later, both which can delay sexual activity, the researchers say.

In fact, the last generation to demonstrate such a high rate of sexual inactivity was young people in the 1920s — right around the time of the Great Depression.

"The one parallel (with young adults in the 1920s) is economic climate," said Sherman. Economic downturns force young people to delay adulthood, Sherman said.

If the economy is bad, it's harder for young people to get jobs, move out of their parents' homes, and start their own adult lives, said Sherman. "Now we’ve added to that pile with delaying sexual experience."

Online opportunities

It could be that today's young people can experience intimacy online, including the widespread availability of pornography.

"Some people might say porn is causing people to have sex more. But a counter argument to that is, well, maybe it’s somehow fixing sexual urges," said Sherman.

64 percent of millennials don't have credit cards: study 0:23

Social media and dating apps also factor in, Sherman said. "The current generation has opportunities to interact with other people. They're still getting these social needs met without actually being with other people. They can entertain themselves without actually being with other people."

The study's findings mesh with the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that the number of high school students who have had sex plunged last year to 41.2 percent after declining steadily from 54.1 percent in 1991 and 46.8 percent in 2013.

Related: They're not doing it: Fewer teens having sex

A sign of female empowerment

Another possible reason for delayed sex: young women feeling more empowered about their sexuality, Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families, said via email.

Coontz cites statistics demonstrating a decrease in college campus hookups anda study showing current married partners who share housework and childcare equally report having more sex. Both, to her mind, show that today's young people are more aware that "a good intimate relationship doesn't have to be based on outdated gender roles and sexual mores."

"It's part of a wide range of findings showing some very good news about the ability of young people to manage their sexual activity and their intimate relationships more responsibly," Coontz said.