The Tinder generation has earned the reputation of being carefree when it comes to sexual exploits.
Yet at least one in 10 young people have suffered a distressing sexual problem recently, according to new research.
Problems climaxing, erectile dysfunction and lack of interest in sex were the main issues, researchers found.
And yet very few young people experiencing difficulties had sought professional help, the study showed.
The researchers said sexual problems should be discussed with young people, as these issues could stop people enjoying healthy relationships as they grow up.
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At least one in 10 young people have suffered a distressing sexual problem recently, according to new research (file photo)
The findings come from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles – the largest scientific study of sexual health lifestyles in Britain.
‘Sexual function’ is defined as the extent to which a person is able to participate in and enjoy a sexual relationship.
Problems with sexual function are often assumed to be more relevant for older people, researchers said.
They believe this is the first study to focus on sexual function in early adulthood.
The British team analysed survey figures from 1,875 sexually active and 517 sexually inactive people aged 16 to 21.
More than a third of sexually active young men and just under half of women had experienced one or more problem lasting at least three months in the past year, they found.
The figures were not much lower than for the wider 16-74 age group, which the team had investigated previously.
Among young women, the most common distressing problems reported were difficulty reaching a climax (six per cent) and lacking interest in sex (five per cent).
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Prior studies have linked douching, or vaginal washing with a device, to yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancies.
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Among young men the most common were reaching a climax too quickly (five per cent) and difficulty getting and keeping an erection (three per cent).
Study lead author Dr Kirstin Mitchell, of the University of Glasgow, said: ‘When it comes to young people’s sexuality, professional concern is usually focused on preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
‘However, we should be considering sexual health much more broadly, as sexual difficulties can impact on young people’s sexual well-being in the longer term.
She added: ‘Our findings show that distressing sexual problems are not only experienced by older people in Britain – they are in fact relatively common in early adulthood as well.
‘Sex education and sexual health service professionals need to provide reassurance and opportunities for young people to discuss and address these problems early on.
‘If we want to improve sexual well-being in the UK population, we need to reach people as they start their sex lives, otherwise a lack of knowledge, anxiety or shame might progress into lifelong sexual difficulties that can be damaging to sexual enjoyment and relationships.’
More than a third of young people – 36 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women – who reported one or more sexual problems had sought help about their sex life, but this was rarely from a professional source.
They most commonly reported seeking help from family and friends, or the media and self-help sources including the internet.
Sexual problems should be discussed with young people, as these issues could stop people enjoying healthy relationships as they grow up, researchers said (file photo)
Only four per cent of young men and eight per cent of young women who reported a sexual problem had consulted a professional such as a GP, sexual health professional or psychiatrist about their sex life in the past year.
Among those young people in the survey who had not had sex in the past year, 10 per cent said they had avoided doing so because of sexual difficulties that either they or their partner had experienced.
Study co-author Professor Kaye Wellings of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘UK sex education is often silent on issues of sexual satisfaction, but these are clearly important to young people and should be addressed.
‘Sex education could do much more to debunk myths about sex, discuss pleasure and promote gender equality in relationships.
‘Teaching young people the importance of communication and respect within relationships is also key to helping them understand and address problems that may occur in their sex lives.’
The research was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.