Researchers, led by the University of Delaware, fear modern mobile phones may be making things even worse. Picture: Reuters

London - Couples who own a television have less sex, but smartphones could be the real passion-killer, scientists claim.

A major US study compared TV ownership with four million people’s sex lives and found TVs made couples six percent less likely to get intimate.

But the researchers, led by the University of Delaware, fear modern mobile phones may be making things even worse.

"In countries with ubiquitous smartphones, the smartphone might be the real sex life killer. Future research might examine this question," the study said

Professors Adrienne Lucas from the University of Delaware, and Nicholas Wilson, from Reed College in Oregon, said a strong link between TV ownership and sex lives suggested people were "willing to substitute electronic media for intimate human companionship".

They wrote: "Does television kill your sex life? Popular culture claims 'yes'.

"Evidence from nearly four million individuals in 80 countries from five continents suggests 'a little'."

It is already feared Netflix may be destroying our love lives, with a study by the University of Lancaster last year identifying a "busy hour" between 10pm and 11pm when people are thought to take their tablets to bed to stream TV shows.

The surveys were conducted around 2010, before the rise of the smartphone.

However, a US study from 2015 found mobiles prevented couples from spending quality time together, regularly interrupting conversations and mealtimes.