Mumbai: “Netflix and chill"—the viral catchphrase that is often used as a euphemism for casual sex—seems to suggest that watching soaps and sex complement each other. But a new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) research paper by Adrienne Lucas of the University of Delaware and Nicholas Wilson of Reed College suggests that screen time can be detrimental to sex lives.

The study, based on demographic and health survey (DHS) data of 4 million people across 80 countries, shows that television ownership is associated with at least a 6% reduction in the likelihood of having had sex during the week preceding the survey.

The researchers argue that sexual activity and television viewing are substitutes, rather than complements. The standard consumer demand model in economics postulates that as the price of a substitute decreases, quantity demanded for the alternative decreases.

Also read: Sex in India: What data shows

The authors suggest that the smartphone might be the ‘real sex-life killer’.-

In the case of television and sex, researchers argue that owning a television reduces the price of viewing, which increases its demand while decreasing the demand for an alternative leisure activity: sex.

The researchers argue that high fertility regions should incentivize ownership of TV sets through subsidies, taxes, and other means while public authorities in low fertility regions should consider these tools to discourage TV ownership. Such recommendations may appear a bit far-fetched but the connection between screen time and sex life deserves more scrutiny and research.

In recent years, there have been concerns about the impact of increased smartphone use on human behaviour, including sex. This study, based on surveys conducted before smartphones became ubiquitous, does not the quantify the impact of smartphones on sex. But the authors do suggest that the smartphone might be the “real sex-life killer".