Are you satisfied with your sex life? It’s a question that can often be met with hesitation or even embarrassment. But understanding what contributes to sexual satisfaction is crucial for personal well-being and relationship happiness. A recent study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health explores the factors that affect sexual satisfaction among both single and partnered individuals, shedding light on the nuances of our intimate lives.
Prior research on sexual satisfaction has mainly focused on individuals in committed relationships, leaving a gap in our understanding of the experiences of single adults. The Norwegian study aimed to bridge this gap by investigating the sexual satisfaction of both singles and couples. The researchers were keen to explore what factors might facilitate or hinder sexual satisfaction in these different relationship statuses.
“Previous research mainly neglected singles’ sex life satisfaction, at least its nuances. For example, we know that singles are less sexually satisfied compared to partnered adults, but this does not necessary mean that all singles are sexually dissatisfied,” said study author Nantje Fischer, the Director of CENSE – Norwegian Research Centre for Sexual Health. “So, what I was interested in was to study aspects that may facilitate or hamper sexual satisfaction among single women and men, and to assess whether they differ from those for partnered adults.”
To conduct this study, Fischer collected data from a large and diverse sample of Norwegian adults aged 18 to 89 years. The sample included 2,181 men (52.6%) and 1,967 women (47.4%), with an average age of 48.4 years for men and 44.4 years for women. Approximately half of the participants completed the survey on their mobile devices (51%). Fischer took steps to ensure that the sample was nationally representative, utilizing national phone registries to maintain an online panel of participants.
The study found that, in general, most men and women reported being quite satisfied with their sexual lives. However, when Fischer looked at single and partnered adults separately, she discovered significant differences.
Both single men and women were more likely to report that they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their sexual lives. A substantial portion of them fell into this category. Additionally, a significant number of singles reported being somewhat dissatisfied. In contrast, partnered women and men reported much higher levels of sexual satisfaction, with the majority of them indicating that they were quite satisfied with their sexual lives.
Fischer found that individuals’ evaluation of their relationship status (satisfaction with singlehood for singles and relationship satisfaction for partnered individuals) played a significant role in sexual satisfaction as well. Essentially, the higher their reported satisfaction with their singlehood or relationship, the greater their sexual satisfaction.
“Singles who are satisfied with being single are also more satisfied with their sexual life,” Fischer told PsyPost.
Among single women, several factors significantly influenced their sexual satisfaction. These included higher contentment with their current level of sexual activity, greater satisfaction with singlehood, higher masturbation frequency, higher levels of sexual intercourse activity, and older age. Conversely, poorer self-estimated general health and higher levels of distressing sexual difficulties were negatively related to sexual satisfaction.
For single men, the most powerful factors predicting sexual satisfaction were contentment with their current sexual frequency, positive genital self-image, satisfaction with singlehood, and higher levels of sexual intercourse activity. Poorer self-estimated health, higher masturbation frequency, and lower education were negatively associated with sexual satisfaction.
In the case of partnered women, the most significant predictors of sexual satisfaction included contentment with their current sexual activity, high levels of relationship satisfaction, and higher levels of intercourse activity. However, deliberately avoiding sex with a partner, a negative body image, distressing sexual difficulties, and lower education were also weakly associated with sexual satisfaction.
Finally, for partnered men, key factors in predicting sexual satisfaction included contentment with their sexual activity, frequent intercourse activity, and high levels of relationship satisfaction. However, relationship duration, avoiding sexual activity with their partner, lower satisfaction with their genital appearance, masturbation frequency, and lower general self-estimated health were negatively related to sexual satisfaction.
Across gender and relationship status, one common factor stood out as the most critical predictor of sexual satisfaction – contentment with the current level of sexual activity. Additionally, intercourse frequency was linked to sexual satisfaction, although its impact was less significant when accounting for contentment with sexual activity.
While this study provides valuable insights, there are some limitations to keep in mind. The study was cross-sectional, meaning it captured a snapshot in time, so causal conclusions cannot be drawn. Additionally, the survey relied on one-item measures for certain variables, such as overall sexual satisfaction.
Future research could explore additional factors, including sexual self-esteem and sociosexuality, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of sexual satisfaction. Moreover, researchers should consider more nuanced relationship statuses and aim for higher response rates in future studies to improve generalizability.
Despite the limitations, the study offers valuable insights into what contributes to sexual satisfaction among singles and couples. It highlights the importance of contentment with sexual activity, regardless of relationship status, and emphasizes the significance of one’s evaluation of their relationship or singlehood. These findings provide a foundation for understanding the complex dynamics of sexual satisfaction, paving the way for better personal well-being and happier relationships.
The study, “Singles Not Sexually Satisfied? Prevalence and Predictors of Sexual Satisfaction in Single versus Partnered Adults“, was published August 4, 2023.