Sexual activity falls as fewer than half have relations at least once a week

The steepest decline is among over-25s
Jane Kirby (PA)

FEWER than half of British people have sex at least once a week and rates are declining, new data suggests. People over 25 and those who are married or living with a partner are having less sex than in the past, while the proportion wanting more sex is increasing.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed data for more than 34,000 men and women aged 16 to 44 who completed the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in 1991, 2001 and 2012.

The data, reported in the British Medical Journal, showed a general decline in sexual activity between 2001 and 2012, with the steepest declines among the over-25s and those who were married or living together.

Overall, the proportion reporting no sex in the past month fell between the first and second surveys (from 28.5 per cent to 23 per cent in women and from 30.9 per cent to 26 per cent in men) but increased significantly in the final 2012 survey (to 29.3 per cent in women and 29.2 per cent in men).

The proportion reporting sex 10 times or more in the past month increased between the first two surveys (from 18.4 per cent to 20.6 per cent in women and from 19.9 per cent to 20.2 per cent in men), but fell in the final survey to 13.2 per cent in woman and 14.4 per cent in men.

Men and women in better physical and mental health had sex more frequently, as did those who were fully employed and those with higher earnings.

The researchers noted that the average number of times that 35 to 44-year-olds reported having sex in the past month fell from four to two among women and from four to three among men. Among people married or living together, the odds of reporting sex 10 or more times in the past month were roughly halved. Declines of this magnitude were not seen among single people.

The data also show that half of women (50.6 per cent) and almost two-thirds of men (64.3 per cent) said they would prefer to have sex more often, particularly those who were married or living together.

The authors said "most compelling" among the explanations for the decline was "the stress and 'busyness' of modern life, such that work, family life, and leisure are constantly juggled".

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