A study of 4.4 million adults has shown those born premature are twice as likely to never have a sexual relationship compared to babies born at full-term.
Researchers at the University of Warwick said those born pre-term were 28 per cent less likely to form a romantic relationship and 22 per cent less likely to become parents.
They were 2.3 times less likely to ever have a sexual partner, while those born before 28 weeks were more than three times less likely.
Those behind the study believe the findings are partly due to premature birth being associated with people who are more withdrawn and shy, socially excluded and less likely to take risks in adolescence.
Despite the drop in odds of a sexual encounter, those born premature did not report their relationships with friends and partners were diminished.
Dr Marina Goulart de Mendonca authored the paper, and said the findings did not appear to be explained by a higher rate of disability among pre-term births.
“Preterm-born children have been previously found to have poorer social interactions in childhood that make it harder for them to master social transitions such as finding a partner, which in turn is proven to boost your wellbeing,” she said.
She said there’s no proof to the theory that adults born prematurely merely take longer to achieve life’s milestones.
“We verified that the difference of experiencing these transitions in comparison to those born full-term did not alter in the older age group, and in some cases, it was even higher in the older age group.”