Sex drive declines twice as much in women than men in long term relationships

A new study looking at British attitudes towards sex shows that women in long term relationships are twice as likely to lose interest in sex compared to men.

Women were more likely to be left uninterested in sex in long term relationships with their partners and the problem was with the lack of emotional connection and closeness with their partners as well as their declining health found the study. The study was published in the journal BMJ Open.

Image Credit: CHAINFOTO24 / Shutterstock
Image Credit: CHAINFOTO24 / Shutterstock

The study involved 4,839 men and 6,669 women making it one of the largest studies to look at the sexual attitudes among the population. The participants were aged between 16 and 74 years and had at least one sexual partner in the previous year.

Researchers of the study from University of Southampton and University College London said that this was a step in the direction of finding the underlying problem that leads to loss of interest in sex rather than simply using medications to treat the problems of sexual desires.

From this study it was found that 15 percent of the men and 34 percent of the women surveyed lost interest in having sex for three months or more in the previous year. Women who were in a relationship for over a year were more likely to lose interest than those in a relationship for a shorter period of time. For men however the sex drive remained constant with time. Women living with their partners were more likely to lose interest compared to those living on their own.

Among men the peak ages of loss of interest in sex was between 35 and 44 years while among women it was highest between ages of 55 and 64 years.

Study authors said that these features among the women could not be attributed to the fact that they were having menopause around that time. Presence of young children (less than five) at home however is a deterrent to sex for women however, they note.

Some of the common reasons cited by women as well as men to lose interest in sex with their partners were lack of emotional connection during sex, poor communication and poor mental and physical health.

Bad first sexual encounters also tended to shorten a woman’s active and enjoyed sex life with guilt and other negative feeling regarding how they lost their virginity clouding their relationships. Having more than three sexual partners in the previous year was also linked to lower interest in sex for women.

Persons who were less than happy in their relationships were less likely to have a fulfilling sex life and tended to lose interest found the study.

Difficulty in talking about sex with a partner, not sharing similar levels of sexual interest with a partner or not sharing similar sexual likes and dislikes were important factors among women in losing interest.

According to Cynthia Graham, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, this study emphasizes upon the importance of why men and women lose interest in sex with time. She said that this shows that relationship problems and gender specific problems need to be handles first in order to treat sex and sexual desire problems holistically. Just a pill could not fix all of these problems she explained. Antidepressants may not be the answer to all of these problems she said.

According to co-author Dr Kirstin Mitchell, of the University of Glasgow, the importance of “open sexual communication” cannot be more emphasized. It would lead to a reduced risk of problems of sexual desires. She called for provision of broad “sexual and relationship education” and not just treating the sex problems.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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