Research suggests that many women in the UK have ‘poor’ sexual health, markedly worse than men. Those considered to have ‘good’ sexual health – a low probability of any sexual health problems – consisted of 83% of men but only 52% of women. The study concluded that women have a wider range of issues surrounding sexual health.

Analysing data from the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, researchers at the University of Glasgow found significant differences in sexual health between men and women. The participants, 5000 men and 7000 women aged 16-74, were all sexually active the year before the survey was conducted.

What did the study find?

For women, all aspects of poor sexual health were linked to overall lower satisfaction with their sex lives, in comparison to those who were considered to have good sexual health.

For men, sexual function problems were the only issue linked to higher distress. Exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) did not seem to affect men as much as women.

2% of women and 4% of men were ‘wary risk-takers’ with a good understanding of the risks of STIs but a higher probability of having unprotected sex.

In contrast, 7% of women and 4% of men were ‘unwary risk-takers’ – likely to have unprotected sex but unaware of the risks involved.

Women reported a greater range of sexual health problems including lack of desire, experienced by 29% of the women surveyed. Those with a lower interest in sex tended to be in the older age range.

9% of men and 7% of women reported issues with sexual function, such as difficulty in reaching orgasm.

2% of women fell into the ‘highly vulnerable’ category, with exposure to factors such as STI diagnoses, sexual dysfunction, abortion and sexual coercion.

Which groups may benefit from tailored intervention?

The study highlighted three main groups:

  • Men and women who underestimate their STI/HIV risk exposure,
  • Women distressed by lack of interest in sex,
  • Women experiencing multiple adverse outcomes.
Worried about sexual health
48% of women in the UK are reported to have ‘poor sexual health’

How to improve your sexual health

Have open and honest conversations with your partner

Although many people find it difficult to speak about their sexual health, encouraging an open conversation with your partner will allow you to learn about each other and the potential risks -helping you to stay safer.

Regular STI testing

If you think you may have been at risk, you should get tested for STIs as soon as possible. Most people with an STI do not show any symptoms and it only takes one sexual encounter to catch an infection. Having an STI test around every six months, or with every new partner, will ensure that you are taking care of your sexual health.

Contact us

Our highly trained Sexual Health Advisors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your concerns and help you to take control of your sexual health. Speak to us in confidence by phone or live webchat today.


[1] The Guardian

[2] RT

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