Money worries and the distractions of social media mean people are having sex less frequently, researchers say.
A once-a-decade poll of 15,000 Britons found those aged 16-44 were having sex fewer than five times a month.
The figure compared with more than six times a month on the last two occasions when the official National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles was carried out, in 1990-91 and 1999-2001.
The study’s authors say modern life may be having an impact on libidos.
Dr Cath Mercer, from University College London, said: “People are worried about their jobs, worried about money. They are not in the mood for sex.
“But we also think modern technologies are behind the trend too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails.”
She also said the survey suggested that couples aged 16 to 44 may be using online porn as a substitute for sex.
- Couples having less sex each month on average
- More women having sex with women
- For both men and women, the average number of partners of opposite sex has increased
- Younger people having sex at an early age
Men polled in 2010 to 2012 reported having sex 4.9 times a month and women 4.8. In both previous surveys the averages were more than six for both sexes both times.
The survey carried out by NatCen Social Research and analysed by researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also asked older people about their sex lives.
It found 42% of women and 60% of men aged 65 to 74 had had sex in the past year.
Nonetheless, they were the age groups having the least sex – 2.3 times a month for men and 1.4 for women.
Dr Cath Mercer: “If we think about the amount of sex that the population has, we’ve seen a decline in frequency”
Among men, the 25-to-34 age group were having the most sex – 5.4 times a month – and for women it was the 16-to-24 age group, 5.8 times.
The latest survey, which is carried out every 10 years, also shows the age at which people start having sex is lower in the younger age groups.
The average age for the under-25s is 16 compared with 19 for men and 18 for women in the 65-to-74 age group.
Among other findings:
- One in six pregnancies in the UK is unplanned.
- About half of men and women have had a recent sexual problem, but only a 10th of those interviewed were distressed or worried about their sex lives.
- Lack of interest in sex is one of the most commonly reported problems, and one not confined to women – around 15% of men had experienced loss of libido.
- Since the last survey in 2000 people have become more accepting of same-sex relationships but less tolerant of cheating spouses. For more about how attitudes have changed read more here.
- The average woman aged under 44 said they had had 7.7 partners over their lifetime, while for men it was 11.7.
- Some 3.6% of men had paid for sex in the last five years. Hardly any women had.
Genevieve Edwards, from Marie Stopes International, said: “A key insight from the survey is that people are having sex earlier and having children later, which means that, on average, women in Britain spend about 30 years of their life needing to avert an unplanned pregnancy, yet many are not being informed about or offered the full range of services.
“Long-acting contraceptives, for example, can be extremely effective and convenient but too many are never offered the choice.”
But the poll – the full details of which have been reported in the Lancet – also revealed the extent to which people are forced to have sex against their will.
One in 10 women and one in 70 men said they had experienced it.
However, fewer than half had told anyone about it and even fewer (13% of women and 8% of men) had reported the crime to the police.
A selection of your comments:
A most interesting report, some of the findings confirming what I had suspected for some time. I am a 72-year-old bloke still married to the first Mrs Barnett after 50+ years. And also still enjoying (though less frequently) what has been a most satisfactory sex life all through our marriage. Maybe that’s why we’re still together after all this time! I’m also very interested in many aspects of the ageing process and sex in ‘mature life’ is rarely talked about. Hence revelations about the sex life of the 65-74 age group are of great interest to me. I’d like to see the medics do more research and publish their findings in this field. We ‘oldies’ are still enjoying life while we can and sex is, to me, a vital part of that enjoyment. It’s not just about drinking wine and Saga holidays!
Barry Barnett, Cheadle, Staffordshire
This has hit the nail right on the head! In my situation, it’s all thanks to good old Candy Crush (the game). My sex life has nearly vanished thanks to this game. Not just my sex life with my partner but our social relationship as well. The only “thing” keeping us together are the kids. Do I blame social media and candy crush? Yes I do, especially after I’ve done everything in my power to fix this! She’s addicted and needs help.
This is very interesting since the birth rate is the highest in many years. The thing is sexual energy is fabulous for the soul, in fact it’s vital! The worries about money and the social media distractions really are just excuses to not focus on your relationship. Communication breakdown is such an issue in these circumstances and only compound the problem. Stop hiding and face reality, it will improve your life in ways that you could not have imagined.
Clare Turner-Marshall, Grendon, Warwickshire
We are first time parents and have a beautiful (unplanned) three-month-old daughter. She was a love child – the result of what was once an incredibly active sex life. Now, we haven’t had sex in about five months. It hasn’t impacted too much on our relationship – we are still happy and in love, but it’s concerning. Neither of us are interested, for various reasons (mainly having a baby constantly attached to me!) but recently we’ve made an agreement that we need to spend less time on social media sites. We don’t like the fact that our daughter has started to stare gormlessly into the screens of our lap tops and phones, and we hate the fact that we can spend almost a whole evening sat beside each other but interacting only with our computers. Maybe this change will help us to re-ignite our life between the sheets, who knows. But I can relate to what this article is saying about technology affecting peoples sex lives.
It is refreshing to read a report like this. I am 72 have been married for 27 years and have not had sex since 2006. My wife thinks that it is an activity strictly for the young. It is something that we no longer talk about and she looks disgusted when I approach the subject. Personally I think that it is a perfectly natural thing for people to do when they love each other, no matter what age. We have two dogs, three TVs, two PCs, and two tablets – not to mention the phones. Perhaps I should get rid of them all.
The stress of modern life and the increasing expectations placed upon us to achieve more than we needed to achieve 20 years ago has lead to a deterioration in relationships. As a therapist, this report does not surprise me, as my experience in the last few years has been that I have seen increasing numbers of people who are looking for help to make their relationships better.
Sam Lucas, Nottingham