Averages up: 6 for men, 4 for women
Number of opposite sex partners ever, Great Britain
The average (median) number of lifetime heterosexual partners was six for men and four for women (aged 16 to 44 at time of interview in 1999-2001). A far higher proportion of men than women reported ten or more lifetime partners (35 per cent of men compared with 19 per cent of women).
One in 100 men reported 100 or more partners, while one in 100 women reported 40 or more. Women were more likely to report fewer partners than men – 18 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women reported none or only one lifetime sexual partner.
The previous survey was carried out in 1989/90 at a time of concern about the rising epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Since then the proportion of men and women reporting two or fewer lifetime partners has fallen while the proportion reporting five or more has increased. For women the median increased from two to four lifetime partners, while men reported an increase from four to six.
The median age of first heterosexual intercourse was 17 for both men and women. One in four men (27 per cent) and one in five women (20 per cent) reported first intercourse before the age of 16.
Around 6 per cent of both men and women reported having sex with a same sex partner. This was an increase from 4 per cent of men and 2 per cent of women ten years previously.
Source: National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles II, National Centre for Social Research
Interviews were conducted with men and women aged 16 to 44 (via self-completion) living in private households in England, Scotland and Wales between 1999 and 2001.