National Sexual Health Survey Reveals Barriers to Addressing Issues

Why aren’t couples talking about sex? Despite increasing public acceptance of sex as an everyday topic and a trend towards more empowered health consumers, people continue to feel uncomfortable talking about sexual health issues—even behind closed doors.

A new national survey from the American Sexual Health Association, in partnership with Men’s Health Network, HealthyWomen and Pfizer highlights the gap between people’s belief in the importance of sexual health and their avoidance of addressing related issues.

Key Study Findings

The survey included 3,015 adults aged 40-74 who are sexually active and in committed relationships where at least one partner is experiencing one or more sexual health issue. Key findings include the following:

  • 64% believe that their sex life influences their overall satisfaction with their lives; however, only 38% are satisfied with their sex lives.
  • Embarrassment and resignation prevent many from talking to their doctors (26%) about sexual health challenges they are experiencing. 37% believe that these are obstacles for their partners as well.
  • Fewer than one in four couples (24%) facing sexual health issues feel that they’re always able to be honest with their partners about their sex lives.
  • Men and women have differing priorities for improving physical intimacy. For women, priorities were improving their ability to achieve an orgasm (28% vs. 19% of men), emotional bonding with their partners (32% vs. 20%), and general enjoyment of sex (34% vs. 22%). Men are more apt to focus on their physical ability to have sex (38% vs. 22% of women) and being able to experiment (28% vs. 12%).
  • More than a third of those surveyed—aged as young as 40—are resigned to a worse sex life in 20 years, especially those who are already dissatisfied with their sex lives.

Sexual health is an important part of overall physical and mental well being and has an impact on quality of life for both men and women. But despite its importance, embarrassment and discomfort in discussing sexual health issues remains a barrier—both for couples and healthcare providers.

ASHA has resources to help couples get past embarrassment and disappointment and start talking about issues affecting their sex lives and sexual health and how and when to seek help.

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