Many people remember their first time ...
... but not many know how biology can influence the timing of that first time. Until now.
While this personal and intimate decision is mainly driven by "nurture" factors like religious beliefs, family upbringing, and peer pressure, a new study shows that "nature," i.e. genetics, also plays a key role.
By analyzing genes from the DNA of over 125,000 people ages 40 to 69 enrolled in the UK BioBank project, scientists gained new insights into how heredity affects human behavior.
For both genders, the majority of people lost their virginity at age 18.
Delving deeper, the scientists created a list of 38 sections of DNA they found affected the age at which people first had sex. These included genes that drive reproduction, like sex hormone release and puberty onset, as well as ones that impact behavior, personality and appearance.
For example, CADM2, a gene variant linked early sexual activity with risk-taking behavior and having a large number of children. Another one, MSRA, found in "late bloomers," was associated with irritability.
Published in the journal Nature Genetics, this ground breaking study concluded that differences in DNA were responsible for 25 percent of the variation in the age at which people first have sexual intercourse.
John Perry, an expert in reproductive ageing and related health conditions at Cambridge University told The Guardian, "We were able to calculate for the first time that there is a heritable component to age at first sex." With this new information, scientists believe the decision to lose one virginity's is made up of "one quarter nature, three quarters nurture."
But this data isn’t just interesting, it may also have a positive social impact.
The scientists were able to show the small but nonetheless direct impact early puberty — often traced to poor nutrition and childhood obesity — has on the age at which people lose their virginity and have their first child.
"It suggests that earlier puberty does influence early age of sexual debut," George Davey Smith, a clinical epidemiologist at Bristol University, told the publication, "Which then appears to have other consequences such as, all things being equal…poorer educational outcomes." According to Smith, early puberty and sexual intercourse has been linked to poor educational achievement before.
Perry hopes this revolutionary new data informs scientists about "future preventative efforts to delay puberty" that could help more young people pursue a better education and, eventually, lead to an overall better quality of life.
H/T: The Guardian