How often do couples have sex?

Raagini Yedidi, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Raagini Yedidi, MD, 

Written by Angela Myers 

Raagini Yedidi, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Raagini Yedidi, MD, 

Written by Angela Myers 

last updated: Jun 11, 2024

6 min read

While every couple’s sex life is unique, it’s normal to wonder how you and your partner stack up against others. So, how often do couples have sex? The question is simple enough but the answer isn’t so cut-and-dry.

Some research suggests having sex once a week is the average for committed couples, though that number doesn’t tell the full story. Every relationship is different and various factors (e.g. libido and age, among others) can impact the frequency of their, well, sexy time. 

Ahead, we dig deeper into how often couples have sex per available research and offer tips if you’re interested in boosting the frequency in your relationship. 

Ro

Improve and support your health from the comfort of home

How often do couples have sex? 

The short answer: About once a week, according to a 2017 study that analyzed the sexual behavior of over 26,000 American adults from 1989 to 2014. The researchers found that the average adult has sex about 54 times a year. (If you do the math, that comes out to about one romp per week.) 

And additional research backs this up: A 2020 study polled single and coupled Americans ages 18-44 with varying identities (i.e. heterosexual and LGBTQIA+) about their sexual orientation, how often they had sex, and how many sexual partners they had in the past year. Having sex daily was uncommon for both couples and singles. 

As for how often married couples have sex? According to the 2020 study, married people averaged 1-3 times per month, which was less than coupled but unmarried partners. Other research from 2019 suggests cohabiting couples—no matter their marital status—have less sex than those who live separately.

When looking at these findings, it’s important to note that average doesn’t mean normal. There isn’t a “right” amount of times a month to have sex, and your sex life should be focused less on how you stack up to others and more on finding a cadence that works for you and your partner.

 

What affects how often couples have sex?

One more time for the folks in the back: If you and your partner are having less (or more) sex than the once-a-week average, that’s totally okay. Many factors influence how often couples have sex, such as stress at work, age, attitudes toward the relationship, and more. 

Age

If your sexual frequency has slowed down as you’ve gotten older, know that you’re not alone. In fact, research suggests that, on average, younger people have sex more often than older people. 

According to the aforementioned 2017 study:

  • People in their 20s have sex an average of 80 times per year or about once every five days. 

  • By their mid-40s, people have sex an average of 60 times per year or just over once a week. 

  • Once they’re 65, people have sex an average of 20 times per year or less than twice a month. 

The study also found that millennials and the generation after them (often referred to as Gen-Z) have less sex than their parents and grandparents (i.e. older people) did when they were in their 20s and early 30s. Researchers are unsure why this is, though it could be due to the fact that they have fewer steady partners, an increase in other forms of entertainment, and increases in mental illness such as anxiety and depression.

Relationship status

Across the board, coupling up leads to more sex than staying single, but not all couples are doing the deed at an equal frequency. A Norwegian study polled 92 people in relationships ranging one month to nine years and found that couples who dated longer had less sex.

Living arrangements may also impact sexual frequency, though perhaps not in the way you might expect. Couples who cohabitate often have less sex than couples who live separately, according to the 2019 research mentioned earlier. That said, couples that live together do have more sex overall than those who are single, divorced, or widowed. 

And, unsurprisingly, couples who are dissatisfied with their relationship report having sex less often. 

Physical health

What’s going on with your physical health, such as certain medical conditions, can also hinder how often couples have sex, typically due to their impact on libido. 

For example, hypogonadism or low testosterone tend to decrease sex drive. And while erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE) don’t directly impact libido, they can cause you to struggle with performance, which can ultimately lead you to lose interest in having sex. Hormonal changes from menstruation or menopause can impact someone’s sex drive as well. 

Mental Health

Just as your physical health can impact sexual frequency, so can your mental health. In fact, anxiety and depression commonly cause changes in your sex life, such as decreased sexual desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction—all of which can play a role in how often couples have sex. What’s more, pain with sex is 10 times more likely to occur in women who have previously been diagnosed with anxiety. Understandably, any discomfort with sex can prevent couples from physical intimacy. 

Certain mental health medications, such as antidepressants, can also be to blame for low sexual frequency, as they’ve been shown to decrease sex drive

Work and life events 

When talking about work-life balance, sex may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But like the ability to relax on the weekend or take a proper lunch break, having a healthy amount of sex while working full-time can be hard. This is especially true for those who work particularly long hours, in high-stress environments, or those who have work schedules that conflict with their partner’s. Not only has stress been shown to negatively impact sex, but long hours at the office and a seemingly endless list of responsibilities can leave you tired and preoccupied. 

Being a student can also decrease the likelihood of sexual activity for similar reasons.

What are the benefits of having more sex? 

Life is better with more sex—at least that’s according to one study that polled over 5,000 people in committed relationships. Along with improving overall life satisfaction, sex can offer mental health benefits and improve physical well-being.

Lowers stress and depression 

Orgasms and sex flood the body with hormones, such as dopamine and oxytocin that boost an individual’s mood in the short term. Regular exposure to these hormones may also lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress in the long run. 

Partnered sex, as opposed to uncoupled sex, may provide additional stress relief. One study found partnered sex prevented exposure to stress and helped couples recover from stress. Additional research suggests that other forms of physical intimacy can also lower levels of the stress-hormone cortisol. 

Relieves pain

Whether someone is experiencing a headache, joint pain, or muscle pain, sex could take the edge off. Sex may be a natural pain reliever due to the oxytocin released during an orgasm. Of course, sex isn’t a cure-all for pain, but it can provide temporary relief. 

Promotes good sleep

Common sleep hygiene tips, such as regular exercise and no caffeine at bedtime, can work, but they aren’t the only habits for a good night’s rest. Having an orgasm has been found to improve sleep health too. It’s possible that the release of oxytocin and the decrease in cortisol levels during sex cause this benefit.

May improve heart health

Data is mixed regarding whether sex results in lower levels of cardiovascular disease. That being said, it’s certainly plausible regular sexual activity could result in improved cardiovascular health due to potentially decreased stress levels. Sexual activity is also calorie-burning and counts as physical exercise. Some people with heart conditions cannot safely engage in sexual intercourse, and it’s important you discuss your personal limitations with your healthcare provider.

Strengthens relationships

Relationship quality, a subjective measure of satisfaction and conflict, may be higher for couples who have sex more often, according to one study of older adults who were either married or cohabitating. However, researchers found one big caveat: The quality of sex had to be satisfactory for everyone involved.

How often should couples have sex? 

While the benefits of more sex sure are intriguing, having more sex isn’t always what contributes to increased satisfaction. Instead, having better sex at a frequency that suits a couple is key. In one study of young, heterosexual relationships, couples valued being able to communicate about their sexual desires or concerns more highly than sexual frequency.

Partnered individuals may find more sexual satisfaction when they focus on communicating sexual desires and the quality of sex, instead of how often they “get busy.” Part of that communication should be discussing how often you want to have sex and what’s too much or too little. Perceived frequency and how it compares to expectations often matters more than how often you and your partner get it on.

How to have more sex 

Talking with your partner about your desire for more sex is a great start. From there, you can discuss ways to boost your sex drives or create a plan to treat health-related issues (e.g. ED) that are potentially inhibiting your sexual frequency. If you two feel that an underlying condition or another health challenge might be at play, be sure to consult a healthcare provider. 

Couples in which one or both partners have a low libido may also benefit from couples therapy or sex therapy. A sex therapist can help an individual or a couple identify and solve a range of sexual issues that might be impacting their sex life. 

There are also some at-home fixes to try, such as:

  • Managing stress levels

  • Working on communication with your partner

  • Scheduling sex or a few date nights each week or month

  • Talking about dream sexual experiences or ways to improve your sexual relationship

It may also be useful to practice different types of intimacy throughout the day. This can look like a few light touches when cooking together or a few spicy texts throughout the week.

At the end of the day, how often you do the deed doesn’t matter. The quality of sex and communication impacts relationships more than sexual frequency. Every relationship is different and it’s important to do what works for you and your partner.

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

June 11, 2024

Written by

Angela Myers

Fact checked by

Raagini Yedidi, MD


About the medical reviewer

Raagini Yedidi, MD, is an internal medicine resident and medical reviewer for Ro.