The lockdown has had a particular impact on the sex lives of young people and those who do not live with a steady partner.A survey conducted in Britain shows that COVID-19 had a considerable impact on the amount of sex some people had, with young people and those who were not living with a steady partner the most affected.
Nine in ten people did not have intimate physical contact with someone from outside their household, the joint British HIV Association and British Association of Sexual Health and HIV conference heard this week.
Most people in Britain had some kind of sexual activity including solo and virtual activities during lockdown.
Survey which was conducted in May to April this year show, of the 6654 participants, 38% reported no intimate physical contact, 52% reported it with someone they lived with, and 10% reported intimate physical contact with someone outside of their household.
Having less sex was more likely for people in all kinds of relationships – including those living with a steady partner, perhaps reflecting the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on people’s emotional wellbeing.
Around 55% said it hadn’t changed, around 30% said they had had less sex and around 15% had had more sex, the report said.
According to a BBC report, Studies from around the world tell a similar story. Research conducted in Turkey, Italy, India and the US in 2020 all points to the decline in sex with partners as well as solo acts, directly attributed to lockdown.
“I think a big part of the reason for that is because so many people were just too stressed out,” says Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, which conducted the US-based study.
Your best sexual partner is yourself
The Terrence Higgins Trust has told Newsbeat its advice on safe sex during the pandemic: “Your best sexual partner during the Covid-19 pandemic is yourself or someone within your household.”
If you are having sex with people outside of your household, it’s important to limit the number of partners you have, the charity added.
“People should avoid kissing, wear a face covering and choose positions that aren’t face-to-face.
“Masturbation, sex toys or having phone or online sex are recommended as the safest options,” the Trust added.
A decline in desire
Many people reported increased pandemic-related stressors, including loneliness, general stress and Covid-19-specific worries have decreased sexual desire for their partners.
Rhonda Balzarini, a social psychologist and assistant professor at Texas State University, US, said: “Over time, as resources become more scarce, people become more stressed and the energy wears off, disillusionment and depression tend to set in. When that starts to happen is when we might be starting to see couples get in trouble.”
When stressors became prolonged, people grew exhausted. Stress correlated with depression, and “depression negatively affects sexual desire”.
“Heightened stress leads to low desire or difficulty with arousal”, says Houston, Texas-based sex therapist Emily Jamea.