ORIGINAL RESEARCH—EPIDEMIOLOGY: The Frequency of Sexual Intercourse Reported by Women: A Review of Community-Based Studies and Factors Limiting Their Conclusions


Lorraine Dennerstein, Office for Gender and Health, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Vic. Australia 3050. Tel: 613-8344-4520; Fax: 613-9347-4127; E-mail: ldenn@unimelb.edu.au


Introduction.  A range of methodological inconsistencies has the potential to affect reported prevalence rates of sexual intercourse.

Aims.  We reviewed published studies of sexual intercourse frequency reported by women and associated factors.

Methods.  Literature search of electronic databases. Inclusion criteria for selected cross-sectional studies were population and community-based studies of frequency of intercourse in women published in English or German languages with sample size greater than 300. Longitudinal studies were selected if duration was at least 1 year and samples were not clinically based.

Main Outcome Measures.  Frequency of sexual intercourse/activities and any associated factors.

Results.  There was a great deal of variation in the mean frequency of intercourse across all age groups with higher rates reported by European and American women. There was a reduction in frequency of sexual intercourse from age 50 among women from Europe and the United States. Asian women reported increasing rates through the age group 20–30 followed by a decline. Change with age was not as evident among African and South American studies. Factors most often associated with the frequency of sexual intercourse were age, parity, duration of relationship, pregnancy, time, relationship status, fertility intentions, and contraception.

Conclusions.  There is variation in reported frequency of sexual intercourse between studies, age groups, and continents. Some of the variation may be due to variation in definitions, study designs, and methods suggesting a need for greater consistency in research practice. Schneidewind-Skibbe A, Hayes RD, Koochaki PE, Meyer J, and Dennerstein L. The frequency of sexual intercourse reported by women: A review of community-based studies and factors limiting their conclusions. J Sex Med 2008;5:301–335.