Declining Sexual Activity and Desire in Women: Findings from Representative German Surveys 2005 and 2016

  • Juliane BurghardtEmail author
  • Manfred E. Beutel
  • Annette Hasenburg
  • Gabriele Schmutzer
  • Elmar Brähler
Original Paper


We estimate (1) sexual activity and sexual desire in women living with and without a partner across the age range in Germany and (2) changes over 11 years. A representative survey of 345 (response rate: 65%) women between 18 and 99 years from 2016 was compared to a survey of 1314 women age 18–91 from 2005 (response rate: 53%). Sexual activity was assessed as having been physically intimate with someone in the past year; frequency of sexual desire was rated for the past 4 weeks. In 2016, the great majority of women living with a partner were sexually active and indicated sexual desire until the age of 60, which decreased thereafter. Compared to 2005, fewer women cohabited with a partner. Across the age range, women living without a partner reported considerably less sexual activity and desire. The overall proportion of women reporting partnered sexual activity decreased from 67% to 62% in 2016, and absent sexual desire increased from 24% to 26%. Declines of sexual activity and desire affected mostly young and middle-aged women. The decline of sexual activity and desire seems to be due to a reduced proportion of women living with a partner. There was also a generation effect with younger and middle-aged women without a partner becoming less sexually active and experiencing less desire compared to the previous survey. While surveys were methodologically comparable, interpretations are limited by the absence of longitudinal data.


Sexual desire Sexual activity Partnership Representative sample 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study and its procedure were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional ethics review board of the University of Leipzig (Az 063-14-10032014) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10508_2019_1525_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapyUniversity Medical Center Mainz of the Johannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity Medical Center Mainz of the Johannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany
  3. 3.Selbständige Abteilung für Medizinische PsychologieUniversität LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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