The frequency of sexual intercourse has declined in several high-income countries, so researchers naturally wanted to see if this held true for Britain too. And it does. Data shows a decline in people having sex in 2012 compared to people in the same age bracket in 2001.
The team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gathered data from the Natsal surveys (conducted in 1991, 2001, and 2012) on 34,000 men and women aged 16 to 44. They were interested in knowing whether or not the participants had sex in the past month, how often they had it, and what their ideal frequency of sex was. The findings are published in the British Medical Journal.
Between the first and second survey, the percentage of people not having sex fell from 28.5 to 23 percent in women and from 30.9 to 26 percent in men. I guess it’s no surprise that in Britain they call that decade the noughties. The value has surprisingly increased once again, reaching 29.2 percent in men and 29.3 in women in 2012.
On the other end of the scale, the percentage of people having sex more than 10 times a month was 20.2 percent in men and 20.6 percent in women in 2001 and then dropped to 14.4 and 13.2 percent for men and women respectively in 2012.
“Several factors are likely to explain the declines, but one may be the sheer pace of modern life. It is interesting that those most affected are in mid-life, the group often referred to as the ‘u-bend’ or ‘sandwich’ generation. These are the cohorts of men and women who, having started their families at older ages than previous generations, are often juggling childcare, work, and responsibilities to parents who are getting older,” Kaye Wellings, lead author and professor of Sexual and Reproductive Health, said in a statement.
The study has several limitations, including what may have caused the changes. Natsal is also a self-reported survey, which are known to be susceptible to bias. The researchers were not able to extract meaningful information between same or opposite sex activities and the changes were exclusive to vaginal, oral, and anal sex.
“What is important to well-being is not how often people have sex but whether it matters to them. More than half of the men and women taking part in the study said they would prefer to have sex more often, which could partly stem from unfavourable comparisons with what they think is the norm,” Professor Wellings explained.
The world and attitude have changed since 2012, but we’ll have to wait to know how these measurements may have shifted over the last seven years. The results of the next survey are not expected until 2024.