The age you lose your virginity might be down to your DNA, scientists claim.
You might expect the age young people first have sex to be down to factors like peer pressure and family circumstances. But while researchers admit these things do play a part, they now believe your DNA could play a part.
A study published in Nature Genetics looked at data from 125,000 people who have provided DNA samples to the UK Biobank. The scientists from the University of Cambridge discovered there were 38 genetic variants which were linked with the age a person lost their virginity.
John Perry and Ken Ong, researchers involved in the study, said: “This is hugely important as the timing of these events affects educational achievements as well as physical and mental health.”
Previous studies have found that people who become sexually active at a young age are more likely to smoke and are less likely to graduate from university.
The research team also found a link between an individual’s DNA and the age they start puberty as well as when they become parents for the first time.
An opinion piece written by Perry and Ong said: “We now understand that both nature and nurture play a roughly equal role in regulating the timing of puberty. For example, studies have consistently shown that obesity and excessive nutrition in children can cause an early onset of puberty.
“However, we know far less about the biological and genetic factors behind the ages that we first have sexual intercourse or have a first child. This is because previous research has focused more on environmental and family factors than genetics.”
Genes affect both reproduction and personality
The scientists have divided the 38 genes they identified into two categories – one connected to reproductive biology while the other is concerned with brain development and personality.
They found that people who have their first sexual experience at a young age were more likely to have the CADM2 genetic variant, which has previously been found in people who consider themselves to be risk takers.
And people who wait until they are older to have a sexual relationship are more likely to have the MSRA gene which is found in people who are irritable and easily annoyed.
More research is now likely to be carried out to try and understand how our genes influence the age we reach key reproductive milestones.
DNA testing is more commonly associated with proving biological relationships between two people. Paternity tests are often used to prove the identity of a child’s father where there are doubts and disagreements.