I suspected there might be more to this Australian research situation (see last post), but I couldn’t get my hands on the original article (without paying for it…but who wants to do that?). Laboring under a stroke of genius, I emailed the author, who was kind enough to send me a PDF version. (The Aussies are so nice. I uploaded these Australian lovebirds in their honor.)
As I mentioned last time, media outlets covering the Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships focused on one blazing finding: “only 46% of men and 58% of women in long-term relationships were happy with the amount of sex they had had over the last year.” Yikes…right?
Not exactly. The picture is actually quite a bit rosier (35-40% rosier to be precise). As I ventured past the abstract (that’s the nice summary at the top of academic journal articles, for those who don’t hit the stacks for fun), I realized I had jumped to the conclusion that someone who wanted more sex wasn’t fully satisfied, intimately speaking. As it turns out, though, plenty of people who would be up for more sex still think they have a great sex life. (That’s probably why more sounds appealing…)
In fact, with the exception of ladies over 55 (sorry ladies), 74% of the 6500+ people studied reported their long-term relationship was fully sexually satisfying. Younger people fared even better: a full 85% of the under-35 crowd clocked in with smiling faces. Check out this nifty table:
Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships: Sexual Satisfaction by Age
Reading on, I realized I had made another inaccurate assumption. (I know, I know, why are you even reading this blog?) I thought that people who weren’t satisfied with their sex life would also find their overall relationship to be lacking as well. However, about 10% of people who didn’t rate themselves as fully satisfied sexually thought their relationship was fully satisfying anyway.
Even more encouraging, these relationship satisfaction stats (as distinguished from both sexual satisfaction and one’s desired frequency of sex) were the highest numbers yet. In no age bracket were fewer than 84% of men fully satisfied with their relationship. Isn’t that amazing? This means if I herded 100 men with a long-term lady[i] into an interview, at least 85 of them would give their relationship two thumbs up.
Women had a slightly different experience. Ladies over thirty-four dipped below the 84% relationship satisfaction line, and lost a few percentage points with each subsequent decade. Still, at all ages, at least 74% agreed they were fully satisfied with their relationship. (Keep in mind this dip doesn’t mean women become less satisfied as they age—it could reflect the different factors prompting marriage 30 years ago, the greater stigma of divorce in the older generations, the challenges of declining health, etc.).
All in all, I now think the Australian study is good news. 6,500+ people are here to tell us that, at any given moment, more than three-quarters of us in long-term relationship could be fully satisfied. (Why is the divorce rate higher than that? My next series will demystify the confusion around American divorce stats…cliffhanger, I know.)
What if the Aussies are just sexier people? Or luckier? Or put something in the water? Next time, I’ll take a look at studies of sexual and relationship satisfaction from around the world. After all, if we should organize a mass sex-odus to the land Down Under, we need to start packing.
[i] Remember from last time that almost three-quarters of the sample was married. Fewer than 1,000 of the 6,500+ participants had been living with their partner for fewer than 5 years.
The Study: Smith A, Lyons A, Ferris J, Richters J, Pitts M, Shelley J, Simpson JM. Sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual men and women: the importance of desired frequency of sex. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. 2011 Mar; 37(2):104-15.