Illustration of the globe against a green background with drawings of a man and woman to highlight World Sexual Health Day

World Sexual Health Day: we surveyed how the pandemic changed our sex lives, even two years later

Every September 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Sexual Health Day as a way to acknowledge every person’s right to sexual well-being and the many ways sexual health needs may change across the course of an individual’s life.

In recognition of World Sexual Health Day 2022, we’re excited to share the findings from the Everlywell State of Sex Survey. We surveyed 1,000 Americans from ages 18-35 to learn how their sex lives have changed since the beginning of the pandemic with regard to dating, testing, prevention, and overall sexual health.

So, here’s some of what we found:

  • STI testing is down: One out of five sexually active respondents reported not getting tested at all, citing issues such as cost, lack of access, lack of time, and discomfort visiting a testing site as key barriers.
  • Squashing the stigma: Some good news? One out of three respondents reported asking more questions designed to reduce sexual health risk since March 2020, such as questions about STIs and STI testing status. Communication is key, y’all!
  • Telehealth and at-home testing have changed the game: Of respondents who reported getting tested more frequently in the last two years, almost one in four (24 percent) said that at-home tests or telehealth made it more convenient to get tested. In fact, 11 percent of respondents said they had taken an at-home STD test within the last three months - proving a need for more education on alternative methods of testing.
  • Testing frequency: One in four reported getting STI tested after a sexual encounter and one in four reported getting STI tested before a sexual encounter.
  • Impact for women: Eight out of ten women had not been tested for HPV and more than half had not been tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, leaving them at risk for infertility and certain cancers.
  • When testing is part of getting ready to go out: One in four reported getting STI tested after a sexual encounter and one in four reported getting STI tested before a sexual encounter.

Additionally, the survey’s findings are consistent with CDC reports on the surge of STI rates that have continued to take place since the pandemic began. With STIs now at an epidemic status, it’s important to take your sexual health into your own hands by regularly testing.

“It is crucially important to normalize getting tested for STIs regularly,” said sex and relationship researcher, educator, and clinician, Dr. Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH. “The best protection against spread is regular testing and correct and consistent barrier protection during sexual activity. Since so often STIs don’t have symptoms, regular testing needs to be integrated into one’s engagement in healthy behaviors.”

RELATED: Curious about STD testing with us? Here’s what the process looks like

Luckily, the accessibility of at-home lab testing options can serve as a welcomed solution. “The barriers to regular STI testing include lack of access, time, and discomfort going into a clinic due to stigma around STIs,” said Dr. Mark. “This at-home lab testing allows you to access testing at a time that works for you without having to go to a testing site. That accessibility is crucial to regularly engaging in testing.”

And while testing is a crucial part of sexual well-being, both the survey findings and World Sexual Health Day represent the many intersectionalities that come together to define sexual health.

“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity,” reads the WHO’s working definition of sexual health. “Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.”

We’re here for that. Today and every day.


Our suite of at-home lab tests make it possible to check on your sexual health status all with your privacy in mind. All tests are delivered in discreet packaging which you’ll ship back to a lab to be processed. If your test results should come back indicating that you have been exposed to an STD, a board-certified physician will contact you to talk through next steps and you’ll always receive your digital results directly, so you can prioritize your sexual health with the peace of mind you deserve.


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References:

1. World Sexual Health Day. WHO. URL. Accessed August 29, 2022.

2. New data suggest STDs continued to increase during first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC. URL. Accessed August 29, 2022.

3. The Growing Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescents: A Neglected Population. NIH. URL. Accessed August 29, 2022.

Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More