Sexual fluidity common among American young adults

February 22, 2023—Sexual fluidity—changes in sexual attraction and orientation—is common among American young adults, according to a new study.

The study was published on December 15, 2022, in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Its lead author, Sabra Katz-Wise, is an associate professor in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Understanding of and research into sexual orientation and fluidity has been limited in the past, with orientation commonly considered a fixed part of identity and studies of fluidity using mostly white, cisgender participant pools. Katz-Wise and the other co-authors sought to update and expand the research, using data from the National Institute of Health–funded Sexual Orientation Fluidity in Youth Study, which has a participant pool of 4,087 young Americans ages 14-25 and prioritizes inclusion of people of color and sexual and gender minorities.

Participants reported on any changes they experienced to the genders they were attracted to and in the sexual orientation they identified with. The researchers’ analysis found that more than 16% of the participants experienced a change in their sexual orientation and 33% experienced a change in their attractions. The researchers also analyzed data across gender and racial and ethnic lines, finding, for example, that changes to attraction or orientation were more common among cisgender girls than cisgender boys.

“Measurement of these changes provides a clearer picture of sexual orientation history and experiences that can inform sexual and reproductive health counseling for this age group, as well as identifying exposure to minority stressors, such as sexual orientation–related prejudice and discrimination, which may adversely affect health,” the researchers wrote.

“There is so much that we still don’t know about the complexity of sexual orientation, which makes it a very interesting topic to study,” said Katz-Wise in a February 13 article in PsyPost. “This research allows us to learn how we can better support all people as they develop and understand their identities.”

Read the PsyPost article: A high number of adolescents experience changes in their sexual attractions and orientation, study suggests