Long-term relationships may impact sexual functions of women

Recent study shows that women who were in the same relationship over a seven-year time period showed greater decrease in sexual desire.

A longitudinal study at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University examined the changes in sexual functions of women during a seven-year time period.

- Changes in relationship status had an impact on several sexual functions. The most pronounced observation for sexual desire was that women who were in the same relationship throughout the observation period had the greatest decrease in sexual desire, whereas women who had found a new partner reported somewhat lower decreases and women who were single at the end of the observation period reported stable sexual desire, says Doctoral Candidate in psychology Annika Gunst from the University of Turku.

Effects of age and relationship duration were taken into account in the statistical analyses. According to Gunst, the results suggest that relationship factors or partner-specific factors that are independent of relationship duration have an impact on the variation in women's sexual functions. Therefore, it would be useful to highlight partner-specific factors in the treatment of women's sexual dysfunctions. However, the sexual functions should be further examined in a short-term study in order to create a more diverse understanding of their variation.

In the study, Gunst and her colleagues studied women's sexual desire, arousal, ability to have an orgasm, sexual satisfaction and experiences of pain during sexual intercourse.

- Most aspects of women's sexual functions were quite unstable over seven years, and surprisingly, the majority of the variation was explained by some other factor than previous sexual function. Previous sexual function was not a good predictor of future sexual function overall. Sexual desire, ability to have an orgasm and sexual satisfaction partly affected other functions during the study, but these effects were very minor, explains Gunst.

Of the studied functions, women's ability to have an orgasm was the most stable over time, whereas sexual satisfaction was the most variable. Orgasmic ability improved in all groups during the study. The greatest improvement was seen in women who were single at the end of the observation period, followed by slightly lower improvement in those who were in a new relationship, and slightly lower still in women who were in a relationship with the same partner.

2,173 Finnish women participated in the study based on a population-based sample. The study is part of a larger project of the psychology units of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University in Finland.


Turun yliopisto (University of Turku)


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