Married women have more sexual difficulties than single women or married men

September 28, 2005

Married women are more likely to have sexual difficulties than either single women or married men, suggest the findings of a national survey in Sexually Transmitted Infections.

The nationally representative survey (Natsal 2000) involved over 11,000 men and women between the ages of 16 and 44, who were asked about their sex lives between 1999 and 2001.

Older age was associated with reporting sex life problems for both men and women, but otherwise there were considerable differences between the sexes.

Women were significantly more likely than men to say that they had experienced a short or longer term problem with their sex lives over the past year.

While married or cohabiting men were significantly less likely to say they had sexual problems than single men, the reverse was true for women.

Married women were significantly more likely to report a problem with their sex lives than single women, as were mothers with young children at home.

Men who drank more than the recommended weekly units of alcohol, or who had had a sexually transmitted infection within the previous five years, were also more likely to report problems with their sex lives.

And the quality of the first sexual experience was also identified as important for both men and women, with those reporting a poor first experience more likely to report subsequent problems.

The responses also revealed the importance of good communication. Men and women who felt they could not talk to their partner about sex were around twice as likely to report problems with their sex lives.

The authors of an accompanying editorial comment: "Despite its prevalence, sexual dysfunction is often endured in silence." And they go on to say that studies suggest that as many as 54% of women and 35% of men have problems, but fewer than 11% of men and 21% of women seek help.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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