At least one in 10 of UK 16 to 21 year-olds questioned in a survey admits to having a “distressing sexual problem” in the past year. A lack of education around “issues of sexual satisfaction” is one of the causes, according to researchers.
They analysed data from 1,875 sexually active and 517 sexually inactive people aged 16 to 21. Climaxing, erectile dysfunction and lack of interest in sex are some of the main issues.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and the analysis is described as the “largest scientific study” of sexual health lifestyles in Britain.
It concluded that around one in 10 men and one in eight women aged 16 to 21 in Britain who are sexually active have experienced a “distressing” sexual problem lasting at least three months in the past year.
Among women, the most common problem reported was difficulty reaching a climax. Among men the most common were reaching a climax too quickly and difficulty getting and keeping an erection.
Researchers say that failing to address problems in early adulthood could potentially affect sexual happiness and relationships in the future.
Doctor Kirstin Mitchell from the University of Glasgow is the lead author of the report and says sexual difficulties can impact on young people’s sexual wellbeing in the longer term.
“When it comes to young people’s sexuality, professional concern is usually focused on preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy,” she says. “However, we should be considering sexual health much more broadly.”
The report found more than a third of people who reported one or more sexual problems had sought help about their sex life, but rarely from a professional. They asked for help from family and friends or searched for advice on the internet.
Study co-author Professor Kaye Wellings, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wants sex education in schools to change. “UK sex education is often silent on issues of sexual satisfaction, but these are clearly important to young people and should be addressed.
“Sex education could do much more to debunk myths about sex, discuss pleasure and promote gender equality in relationships.”