Only you can decide how much sex you “should” be having

By Jay Cardiello 

How often couples have sex varies. Research suggests the average is about once a week.1 Each partner’s age, libido, and health can influence frequency. There is no set amount of sex that works for every couple.

Some couples will be most satisfied and happy when they have sex often, but other couples can go longer without sex and still feel that their needs are being met. Some couples have sex even less often or are in a “sexless” marriage.

However, if one or both partners are not satisfied and happy with how much sex they’re having, it can create problems for the relationship.

The article will talk about what research has found about how often people have sex, including the factors that contribute to how often couples have sex. 

Frequency of Sex in Couples by Age

According to a 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that looked at behavioral data collected on American adults from 1989 to 2014:1

  • Adults in their 20s had sex an average of 80 times yearly (roughly once every 5 days).
  • Adults in their 60s had sex an average of 20 times a year (around once every 18 days).

The biggest declines were seen in people in their 50s.

Two notable contributing factors include:

  • Hormone levels: While sex hormone levels can shoot up when you’re young, they tend to go down as you get older.
  • Relationship status: Research suggests that people who are single tend to have more sex than people who are partnered (married or unmarried).

Other factors, like having children and not watching porn, also contributed.

The study found that the declines were similar regardless of a person’s sex, race, location, educational level, and work status.

In addition, the study found that people who were born in the 1940s and 1950s tended to have more sex when they were in their 20s and 30s than millennials and younger generations are having today. The generational differences had nothing to do with working hours.

Benefits of Sex

A healthy sex life can strengthen the bond between you and your partner and help keep your relationship strong. Sex also offers many health benefits, including:

  • Better sleep
  • Improved energy and mood
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of heart disease2
  • Possible improved bladder control in women
  • Possible reduced prostate cancer risk in men3

This is not meant to suggest that having more sex will make you healthier. Nor, does it mean that having less or no sex will make you less healthy. Sex is only one of many factors that can influence health.

Research does show that having sex can be good for both the mind and body. However, the “right” amount of sex is based on whether it improves your overall well-being, both as an individual and a couple.

 The Health Benefits of Sex

What Affects How Often Couples Have Sex?

There are many factors that determine how often a couple has sex. Some of them are unique to each partner while others are related to the relationship.

Here are just a few examples of factors that can affect how often couples have sex:

  • Age
  • Libido (or “sex drive”)
  • Preferences
  • Physical and mental health conditions and medications (e.g., antidepressants, painful sex, substance use)

Sex and Relationships

Sex can be an important part of a relationship, but having less sex does not mean your relationship is not “normal” or healthy. 

A survey published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that around 50% of heterosexual couples were content with the amount of sex that they have. These couples generally had a more positive view of their relationships, too.

On the other hand, most of the dissatisfied men in the study said that they did not get enough sex and that these negative feelings affected how they felt about their relationships. Only two-thirds of dissatisfied women felt the same way.

Feelings About Sex and Intimacy

Part of the reason for the difference between men and women is that men tend to feel greater distress if they are not content with the amount or quality of the sex they’re having. 

A 2013 study from Australia found that while women are more likely to feel severe distress from lack of sexual satisfaction, men are more likely to tie that frustration to their relationship and, because of this, feel less able to resolve their feelings about it.

Women tend to connect sexual satisfaction with intimacy and the duration of their relationship. Men are more likely to relate it to sexual performance, including how consistently they can bring a partner to climax.

Mismatched Libido

Sexual frequency and satisfaction are closely linked. That said, couples do not always have similar sex drives. Even for couples who started out with similar libidos, life changes, health, and other factors can affect them over time.

Unless both partners are able to satisfy each other, the frequency of sex can decrease—even in younger couples.

Comfort Talking About Sex 

Communication plays a large role in why some sexual relationships are more satisfying than others. 

A 2017 review in PLoS One found that people were generally more content with their sex life and relationship when both partners were able to initiate sex. Those who stuck to strict “roles” in which the man initiates sex were almost always less satisfied.

How to Find a Healthy Balance

If you and your partner are not on the same wavelength when it comes to sex, there are some ways that you can work on making sure that both of you are happy and satisfied with your sex life.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • See a therapist. Working with a sex therapist online or in person can help you and your partner figure out the ways that you’re different and find some common ground. Sometimes, it’s easier to talk about sensitive topics like sex if you have someone to be the mediator.
  • Work on intimacy. Some people avoid sex because they fear being intimate. If you or your partner is having these feelings, it’s important to talk about them. These feelings can be complicated, but you want to make sure that you each understand how the other person is feeling. In doing so, you can ensure no assumptions are made and one partner doesn’t end up feeling guilty or “to blame” for the challenges you’re facing in your relationship. 
  • Plan ahead. While spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment sex can be fun, it can be helpful to schedule sex while you and your partner are working through the process of trying to make sure each other’s needs are met. You might find that the anticipation of getting closer to your time together helps you feel more connected and aroused. 


On average, couples in the U.S. have sex once a week. The frequency of sex is greater in younger couples and tends to decline a lot after the age of 50. Single people and people without children tend to have more sex than people who are partnered or have children.

The frequency of sex does not necessarily reflect how people feel about their relationships, though sexual dissatisfaction can. Men often link this to the quantity and quality of sex, while women tend to associate sexual satisfaction with intimacy and the duration of a relationship.

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