Pop culture may make us think the fate of our sex lives lies in superficial matters, but a study by British researchers suggests behavior in the bedroom— and even family outcomes— instead may be written in our DNA.
The research, published Monday in the journal Nature Genetics, analyzed more than 380,000 people, and drew a link between individuals’ genes and their age of puberty, loss of virginity and first childbirth.
“While social and cultural factors are clearly relevant, we show that age at first sexual intercourse is also influenced by genes which act on the timing of childhood physical maturity and by genes which contribute to our natural differences in personality types,” lead study author Dr. John Perry, a senior investigator scientist at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, said in a news release. The MRC funded the research.
About 59,400 and 66,300 women ages 40 to 69 comprised the study group, which researchers drew from the UK Biobank, a national study for health research.
Study authors identified 38 gene variants linked with age at first sexual intercourse. According to the release, many of these variants reside in or near genes associated with brain development and neural connections. Authors found they were also implicated in various reproductive behaviors like age at first birth and number of children.
“One example is a genetic variant in CADM2, a gene that controls brain cell connections and brain activity, which we found was associated with a greater likelihood of having a risk-taking personality, and with an earlier age at first sexual intercourse and higher lifetime number of children,” Perry said in the release.
Other studies have linked loss of virginity at an early age with poorer physical and mental health, as well as fewer educational achievements. MRC scientists also found through previous research that hitting puberty earlier is associated with a higher long-term risk of deadly diseases like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Perry and his team said their findings are significant because they could compel more targeted interventions to promote healthy behaviors.