Friday, 6 Dec 2019

Fewer than HALF of men and women now have sex at least once a week

Is Britain losing its libido? Fewer than HALF of men and women now have sex at least once a week as researchers say couples are too distracted by their phones to focus on each other

  • A study found there has been a steep decline in rates of intimacy since 2001 
  • Scientists claimed that ‘life in the digital age’ was partly to blame for the drop
  • Researchers analysed data from some 34,000 men and women aged 16 to 44
  • The steepest declines were among the over-25s and those who were married

The dawn of the internet promised a new age where finding a sexual partner was just the click of a mouse away.

But rather than improving our romantic lives, new technology has left Britons having less sex than ever before.

A major study found there has been a steep decline in rates of intimacy since 2001, with fewer than half of Britons now having sex once a week.

Scientists said that ‘life in the digital age’ was partly to blame – with couples now too distracted by the internet or their phones to focus on each other.

A major study found there has been a steep decline in rates of intimacy since 2001, with fewer than half of Britons now having sex once a week

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed data from 34,000 men and women aged 16 to 44 who completed a survey about their sex lives in 1991, 2001 and 2012.

It revealed that rates of sexual activity plummeted in Britain between 2001 and 2012, with the steepest declines among the over-25s and those who were married or living together.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, said the decline was due to ‘the sheer pace of modern life’ and that middle-aged couples juggling childcare and work were the worst affected.

It added that rising gender equality had ‘extended to the sexual sphere’, meaning women ‘feel less obliged to meet their partner’s sexual needs irrespective of their own’.

Half of all women and almost two-thirds of men said they would like to have more sex.

Scientists said rising levels of sexual frustration ‘merits concern’, adding that regular sexual activity is key to improving health and wellbeing.

In 2012 one in three people said they had not had sex in the past month, compared to less than one in four a decade earlier.

And the average number of times that 35 to 44-year-olds reported having sex fell from four times a month to two among women and from four to three among men.

The researchers found that couples are increasingly trapped in sexless marriages, with 15 per cent of women who were married or living with their partner reporting they had not had sex in the last month.


Loss of libido is a reduced sex drive.

Past research suggests it affects nearly half of all women at some point in their lives.

It is often linked to relationship issues, stress or tiredness, but could also indicate an underlying health problem.

Sex drives vary person-to-person with no libido being ‘normal’, however, if it is affecting your relationship, it may be worth seeking help from a GP or psychosexual therapist.

Common causes:

  • Relationship problems – such as becoming overly familiar with your partner,  poor communication or trust issues
  • Sexual problems – including erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Age – sex hormones fall during the menopause. Low libido can also occur due to the side effects of medication or mobility problems
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding – can cause changes in hormone levels, exhaustion or altered priorities as people focus on their child
  • Underlying health issues – such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes 
  • Medication – including antidepressants and drugs for high blood pressure
  • Alcohol and drugs 

Source: NHS Choices 

Meanwhile, the number of cohabiting couples who had sex 10 or more times in the past month halved between 2001 and 2012.

Commenting on the decline, author Professor Kaye Wellings said: ‘Most compelling among the explanations relates to the stress and “busyness” of modern life, such that work, family life, and leisure are constantly juggled.

‘Life in the digital age is considerably more complex than in previous eras, the boundary between the private space of home and the public world outside is blurred, and the internet offers considerable scope for diversion.’ 

Professor Wellings added: ‘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.

‘Most people believe that others have more regular sex than they do themselves. Many people are likely to find it reassuring that they are not out of line.’ 

Researchers found that although everyone apart from 16-24-year-old men are having less sex than before, single people fare better overall, as do those who earn more money.

The study concluded: ‘It is perhaps the wider implications of the decline in sexual frequency that may be more worrying.

‘Should frequency of sexual contact serve as a barometer for more general human connectedness then the decline might be seen as signalling a disquieting trend.’ 

In a linked editorial, Dr Peter Leusink, a GP and sexologist from Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said: ‘Personal needs are not being fully met, as a substantial proportion of both men and women indicated that they were not satisfied with the frequency of sexual activity.

‘As the results show, these figures conceal problems such as depression, poor physical health, and relationship problems, which have all increased since the 1990s.’

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