Intended for healthcare professionals


Surveys indicate a decline in sex among young adults in Britain

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 07 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1961

Linked research

Changes in, and factors associated with, frequency of sex in Britain

Linked Opinion

Let’s talk about sex

  1. Peter Leusink, general practitioner and sexologist
  1. Radboud University Medical Centre, Department of Primary and Community Care, Unit Gender and Women’s Health, PO Box 9101/118, 6500 HB Nijmegen, Netherlands
  1. leusinkp{at}

We need qualitative studies to find out why

Promoting sexual health is usually framed in terms of preventing the negative consequences of sex, but a positive frame is also important, as enjoying sex can have health benefits.12 Trends in sexual behaviour are also noteworthy, as changes could influence sexual wellbeing or other factors related to health. In a linked study, Wellings and colleagues used three cross sectional national surveys to compare the actual and preferred sexual frequency of adults in Britain between 1991 and 2012 (National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) 1 to 3).3 Their work follows other studies in developed countries showing that people have become less sexually active in the past decade.

The authors analysed responses from participants aged between 16 and 44—the age group common to all three surveys—and found that the proportion reporting no sex in the past month dropped between Natsal-1 and Natsal-2 but increased significantly in Natsal-3 for both men and women. …

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