COVID-19 pandemic affected women’s sexual behavior

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A recent study from Turkey found that women’s sexual desire and frequency of intercourse increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, but their quality of sexual life decreased.

The findings are published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics.

In the study of 58 women, women participated in sexual intercourse on average 2.4 times per week during the pandemic, compared with 1.9 times in the 6-12 months prior to the pandemic.

Before the pandemic 32.7% of participants desired to become pregnant, compared with 5.1% during the pandemic; however, use of contraception decreased during the pandemic.

Menstrual disorders were more common during the pandemic than before (27.6% versus 12.1%), and participants generated worse scores on a questionnaire based on sexual function during the pandemic compared with scores before the pandemic.


Between March 13 to 15, 2020, a brief online survey was administered to participants recruited in China. A total of 600 men and 600 women were invited to complete self-management surveys via social media platforms.

Before receiving the questionnaire, the participants were informed that the anonymous survey was about sexual behaviors, contained personal questions, and required approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Participants were offered approximately $2 to complete the survey. This research was approved by the Academic Ethics Committee of Anhui Medical University. All participants approved an electronic informed consent.

Participants completed a 12-item questionnaire that included questions assessing the participants’ demographics and present and previous sexual behaviors.

The following data were obtained using a self-constructed, study-specific instrument: age, ethnicity, education, profession, current financial situation, sexual orientation, sexually transmitted disease status, self and partner medical and surgical history, partner relationship, living together with parents or not, changes in the number of sexual partners, sexual desire, frequency of sexual behavior, sexual satisfaction, and risky sexual behaviors. Symptoms were assessed for “during the COVID-19 outbreak”. A

part from that, an additional question was raised: Do you intend to increase the number of sexual partners or risky sexual behaviors (defined as inconsistent condom use, “casual” sexual partnerships, or multiple sexual partnerships) after the outbreak is over?

A missed answer reminder was added to ensure the integrity of the data, and incomplete questionnaires were not submitted to the system. Of the 1,200 participants who received the survey, 305 (50.8%) men and 248 women (41.3%) completed the entire questionnaire. Participants aged 18–45 years, with a history of sexual activity, who provided informed consent were included in the study.

Participants or their partners who were diagnosed with systemic diseases (n = 23), mental disorders (n = 12), sexually transmitted diseases (n = 9), and other serious conditions that led to sexual dysfunction or were taking any drugs that altered sexual function (n = 14, including alcohol abuse and drug use) were excluded4 , 5. Homosexual or bisexual individuals (n = 7) and pregnant and lactating women (n = 29) were also excluded from the study.

RESULTS

Of the 553 participants who completed the survey, 459 (83%) were included in the analyses (270 men and 189 women). All participants were of Han Chinese ethnicity. The characteristics of the study population are presented in Table 1 .

Most interviewees (72%) lived with their parents. Approximately half of the participants (55%) experienced financial deterioration during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Table 1

Demographic characteristics and changes in sexual behaviors of all participants (n=459).

ItemsTotal (n=459)Male (n=270)Female (n=189)
Age (year)
15-30275(0.60)157(0.58)118(0.62)
31-45184(0.40)113(0.42)71(0.38)
Marriage status
married243(0.53)136(0.50)107(0.57)
unmarried216(0.47)134(0.50)82(0.43)
Education level
college or below216(0.47)122(0.45)94(0.50)
bachelor195(0.42)119(0.44)76(0.40)
master or above48(0.10)29(0.11)19(0.10)
Current financial situation
improve10(0.02)8(0.03)2(0.01)
unchanged195(0.42)104(0.39)91(0.48)
deteriorate254(0.55)158(0.59)96(0.51)
Partner relationship
fine188(0.41)114(0.42)74(0.39)
general203(0.44)111(0.41)92(0.49)
terrible68(0.15)45(0.17)23(0.12)
Living with parents
yes331(0.72)185(0.69)146(0.77)
no128(0.28)85(0.31)43(0.23)
Number of sexual partners
increase27(0.06)13(0.05)14(0.07) a
unchanged230(0.50)112(0.41)118(0.62)
reduce202(0.44)145(0.53)57(0.30)
Sexual desire
increase64(0.14)48(0.18)16(0.08) b
unchanged281(0.61)149(0.55)132(0.70)
reduce114(0.25)73(0.27)41(0.22)
Sexual frequency
increase92(0.20)48(0.17)44(0.23)
unchanged199(0.43)114(0.42)85(0.45)
reduce168(0.37)108(0.40)60(0.32)
Sexual satisfaction
increase67(0.15)29(0.11)38(0.20) c
unchanged232(0.51)155(0.57)77(0.41)
reduce160(0.35)86(0.32)74(0.39)
Risky sexual behaviors
there is not368(0.80)200(0.74)168(0.89)
increase5(0.01)3(0.01)2(0.01)
unchanged16(0.03)13(0.05)3(0.02)
reduce70(0.15)54(0.20)16(0.08)

Note: “a, b, c ” mark the statistically significant difference between men and women. For a: F=25.02, df =2, p = 0.001; For b: F=12.09, df =2, p = 0.002; For c: F=14.49, df =2, p = 0.001.

According to the present study, 25% of the participants experienced reduction in sexual desire, while only 18% of men and 8% of women experienced increased sexual desire. The difference between men and women was statistically significant (F = 12.09, df = 2, p = 0.002), and the difference reported here is attributed to the decrease (F = 3.99, df = 1, p = 0.046) and increase (F = 10.28, df = 1, p = 0.001) in the desire (compared to unchanged).

The results showed that 44% of participants reported a decrease in the number of sexual partners, with men slightly more likely than women to report a decrease in the number of sexual partners (53% vs. 30%).

There was good agreement between men and women in terms of sexual frequency, with about 37% of participants reporting decreased sexual frequency. A sub-analysis of married individuals showed that all participants had similar characteristics, 49% of married men and 29% of married women reported a decrease in the number of sexual partners and 36% of married men and 28% of married women reported a decrease in the frequency of sexual activities.

Through multiple regression analysis, we found that age, partner relationship, and sexual desire were closely related to sexual frequency (Table 2 ).

During the COVID-19 outbreak, 32% of men and 39% of women experienced a reduction in sexual satisfaction. The difference between men and women was statistically significant (F = 14.49, df = 2, p = 0.001). In addition, most participants with a history of risky sexual experiences had a reduction in risky sexual behaviors after the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, only five individuals reported an increase in risky behaviors during this period.

Table 2

Correlates of sexual frequency among subjects as determined by logistic regression analysis.

VariablesUnivariate analysisMultivariate analysis
PORP95%CI
Age (yr)0.0160.480.0410.25∼0.81
Marriage status0.483
Education level0.625
Current financial situation0.0411.450.1981.22∼1.95
Partner relationship0.0102.390.0341.74∼2.96
Living with parents0.0280.650.2250.24∼0.82
Number of sexual partners0.635
Sexual desire0.0022.230.0081.25∼3.01
Sexual satisfaction0.0011.830.0551.14∼2.36
Risky sexual behaviors0.086

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Source:
Wiley

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