Religious belief linked to greater sexual satisfaction - study

Having ‘too much’ sex may lead to lower satisfaction, three-country team of researchers say

People for whom religion is important in their lives may have less sex but are more content with it overall, a new study has found.

For both men and women approval of casual sex, or “sex without love”, was found to be negatively associated with sexual satisfaction, it concluded.

The study also identified “a significant association between educational attainment, sexual frequency and satisfaction. Highly educated people reported having less frequent sex, as well as reduced satisfaction from sex life, compared to those with lower qualifications”.

This, the authors suggest, may be due to “higher workload among the highly educated” and or “greater work related stress levels”.


The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, was undertaken at the University of Exeter in England, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and Columbia University in the United States. Researchers used data on men and women aged 18 to 59 from the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

Among those who took part, 11 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women said religion and religious beliefs were very important to them. Married women who were more religious reported higher sexual satisfaction than their less religious peers, though this relationship was not found among married men.

Dr Vegard Skirbekk of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that “as religious individuals are less likely to engage in casual sex and are more likely to limit sexual activity to a relationship based on love this can lead to lower expectations of sexual activity outside a formal union, as well as increased satisfaction from sex life in general”.

He continued, “however, it is possible that religious sentiments about the sanctity of marital sex, as well as disapproval of sex outside marriage, matter more for women’s than for men’s sexual satisfaction”.

Dr Nitzan Peri-Rotem of the University of Exeter said “for women, it is found that having no sexual partners, as well as having 10 or more lifetime sexual partners, is associated with lower satisfaction from sex life. Among men, on the other hand, no relationship is found between the number of lifetime sexual partners and sexual satisfaction”.

She added “disapproval of sex without love and of casual sex is linked with higher satisfaction from sex life among both men and women. While sexual satisfaction initially increases with sex frequency, it declines again at a higher number of sex occasions. Therefore, having ‘too much’ sex may lead to lower level of satisfaction from sex life”.

Overall, the study found “more than two-thirds of respondents reported that they never or almost never attended religious services. Half of all respondents were married, a further 17 per cent were living with a partner and a fifth had no stable partner”.

It was also the case that “nearly 40 per cent of men reported having 10 or more sexual partners in their lifetime compared to a quarter of women”.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times