This analysis revealed that changes in sexual frequency can account for about one-third of the decline in happiness since 2012 and almost 100 percent of the decline in happiness since 2014. If Americans still had sex like they did in 2008, or even 2012, we might be a much happier country. Declines in marriage and religiosity have also played some role, but the effects are much smaller—with each factor only accounting for about a tenth of the decline in happiness. And, but for the rise in regular friend contact over the past few years, young men and women would be even less happy.

In other words, Americans are offsetting some of the lost community and companionship of spouses and churches with closer ties to friends. But those friendships don’t give young Americans the sex life that made previous generations happier.

Clearly, the United States is in the middle of a “sex recession.” Nowhere has this sex recession proved more consequential than among young adults, especially young men.