Over a quarter of relationships are ‘sexless’

Passion-killers include the menopause and having young children but, for the over 60s at least, not body confidence

Release Date: Thursday 20th September 2018

Over a quarter of relationships are ‘sexless’

Passion-killers include the menopause and having young children but, for the over 60s at least, not body confidence

A new survey by Gransnet and  Mumsnet, in association with Relate, has revealed the ultimate taboo - the truth about sex, and lack of it, in relationships.

Over a quarter (29%) of Gransnet and Mumsnet users currently in relationships say that their relationship is “sexless’’ according to the official definition (no sex at all in the past year, or fewer than ten times in the past year). 20% say they’ve had sex fewer than 10 times and 8% say they’ve had no sex at all over the previous 12 months.

Age seems to play a strong part, with the number of people saying they are in sexless relationships growing steadily through the age groups. Those who are in sexless relationships included:

  • 18% of those under 30
  • 25% of those in their 30s
  • 28% of those in their 40s
  • 36% of those in their 50s, and
  • 47% of those aged 60 or older.

The big leap in sexless relationships between those in their 40s and those in their 60s might be down to the menopause, which happens on average at 51 in the UK and can be associated with the physical discomfort that makes sex difficult. Almost a third (32%) of those over 60 say they have lost their libido since the menopause, and those over 60 are significantly more likely than the average to say they would like less sex (11%). 3% of those over 60 say their partners would like less sex.

But getting older has its benefits, as body confidence surges noticeably. Only 14% of those 60 or older, who are having less sex than they or their partner would like, said they were self-conscious about their bodies, compared with 37% of under-30s.

The survey confirms something that lots of parents will admit anecdotally: having young children is a passion-killer. (The average age of a first-time mother in the UK is 31.)

  • Those with no children are significantly less likely (16%) than those with at least one child (30%) to report they have had sex less than ten times in the past year.  
  • 77% of those aged 30 to 34 say their partner would like more sex.
  • When it comes to explaining why they’re not having as much sex as they’d like, those in their 30s are significantly more likely than the average to say it’s because they’re too tired (68%), young children are in the way (61%), or they’ve lost their libido since having children (31%).

But thankfully, this is a short-term effect, and as children grow older their parents’ physical relationships tend to recover. Those reporting sexless relationships over the past year include 31% of those with at least one child under 2, but 19% of those with at least one child aged 14 to 17.

Of all those who haven’t had sex in the past year, 48% have argued with their partner about the amount of sex in the relationship (compared with 38% of respondents overall). Despite this, 76% have never thought of counselling and just 9% have attended sessions with a counsellor.

Overall 75% say their sex life is satisfying but almost half (52%) would still like more - although that’s just 38% for those who’ve been in a relationship for less than three years and 41% for those in a relationship for 20 years or more. The main reason Gransnet and Mumsnet users say they have less sex than they’d like is tiredness, but 10% say it’s because they’d rather read a good book.

Gransnet editor Cari Rosen said, “Certain life events, such as having small children or going through the menopause, seem to throw a hand grenade into your sex life - and plenty of other factors, from ill health to bad communication, can also have an impact. If everyone concerned is perfectly happy to curl up with the latest Marian Keyes instead, it’s not a problem, but we know from the Gransnet and Mumsnet boards that lots of people - both men and women - are quietly miserable about it without quite knowing what to do.”

Relate’s Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice, Ammanda Major said: “When it comes to sex, what matters isn’t how often you do it, but how you feel about it. You could be having sex a handful of times a year and be perfectly happy with this – it’s up to you and your partner to define what a healthy sex life looks like for you. The reason these statistics are worrying is that they suggest a lot of women are unhappy with the amount of sex they’re having, with many saying it’s causing arguments. When you have young children, finding time for sex can be tricky but there are plenty of ways to be intimate without having full intercourse so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  Be sure to talk about how you’re feeling and if things still aren’t working, get in touch with an organisation such as Relate, who can help.”

BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme have been working closely with us on this project and have made a film looking at sex and relationships. You can watch this on BBC2 or the BBC News Channel from 0900 today, or online on the BBC News site.


For further information contact press@gransnet.com / 020 3598 2159.

Notes to editors

Survey of 2,005 Gransnet and Mumsnet users who are in a relationship - survey was conducted between 18th April and 11th May 2018.

About Gransnet

Gransnet is the busiest social networking site for the over 50s. At its heart is a buzzing forum where users debate the hot topics of the day, support each other through tough times and share a laugh. Brimming with useful content covering everything from fashion to grandparenting, travel to technology, as well as competitions and an incredibly popular book club, there is something on the site for everyone. Gransnet is recognised as a champion for digital inclusion and is constantly challenging the stereotypes of ‘older people’ in the media.

About Mumsnet

Mumsnet is the UK’s largest network for parents, with over 14 million* unique visitors per month clocking up over 128 million page views. It has a network of over 10,000 influencers. It regularly campaigns on issues including support for families of children with special educational needs, improvements in postnatal and miscarriage care, and freedom of speech on the internet. *Source: Google Analytics

About Relate

Relate’s non-judgmental relationship support services help people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities to strengthen their relationships.  Services include counselling for couples and individuals, sex therapy, mediation and children and young people’s counselling. Relationship support is available online and face-to-face. Relate.org.uk has a range of information and self-help.  

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