Happier With Sex Life: Men or Women?

Study Reveals Global Gender Gap in Sexual Well-Being

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 19, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

April 19, 2006 -- All over the world, men are more satisfied with their sex lives than women, a new study shows.

The study included 13,882 women and 13,618 men in 29 countries. All participants were at least 40 years old.

No matter where participants lived, men generally rated their sexual well-being higher than women, write the University of Chicago's Edward Laumann, PhD, and colleagues.

Participants completed surveys on their "sexual well-being," which was defined as the physical and emotional satisfaction of sexual relationships, satisfaction with sexual health or function, and the importance of sex in one's life.

Women rated themselves lower than men in all of those categories, Laumann's team reports in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

International Sex Survey

Participants were randomly chosen. They were told that their answers would be confidential.

Survey questions included:

  • "Generally, how happy have you been with your life as a whole [physical, social, family, work] during the past 12 months?"
  • "During the past 12 months, how physically pleasurable did you find your relationship with your partner to be?"
  • "During the past 12 months, how emotionally satisfying did you find your relationship with your partner to be?"
  • "If you were to spend the rest of your life with your sexual function/sexual health the way it is today, how would you feel about this?"

Participants also rated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements including:

  • "Older people no longer want sex."
  • "A 'real man' is ready for sex at any time."
  • "Women have greater control over sexual desires than men."
  • "Women have a duty to meet their partner's sexual needs."

World's Views on Sexual Well-Being

The researchers split the countries into three clusters, which included:

  • Cluster 1: Western Europe, Mexico, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, U.S.
  • Cluster 2: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brazil.
  • Cluster 3: China, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand.

The countries in cluster 1 had the highest ratings of sexual satisfaction, but cluster 2 attributed more importance to sex than the other groups, the researchers write. Cluster 3 ranked lowest in all categories on the survey.

Cultural differences in sexual attitudes, practices, and sexual well-being between "East" and "West" deserve more study, the researchers write.

Participants who rated their health as being good also gave their sex lives better ratings. Health was a bigger influence than age, the study shows.

As for the gender gap, Laumann's team writes that "true parity remains an ideal even in countries where beliefs about gender equality are more widespread."

Study's Limits

Many potential participants refused to take the survey. No one knows if their views match those noted in the study.

Also, the surveys weren't given the same way worldwide, which could have affected the results, the researchers note. For instance, the surveys were done by telephone in many Western countries, by mail in Japan, door-to-door in the Middle East and South Africa, and in public places in Asian countries except Japan.

People who hadn't been sexually active in the past year weren't included in some of the results, including those related to sex's impact on overall happiness.

The study was funded by the drug company Pfizer. However, the researchers state in the journal that Pfizer had no input on how the researchers analyzed, interpreted, and reported the findings.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Laumann, E. Archives of Sexual Behavior, April 2006. News release, University of Chicago. Reuters.
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