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Initial Impacts of COVID-19 on Sex Life and Relationship Quality in Steady Relationships in Britain: Findings From a Large, Quasi-Representative Survey (Natsal-COVID)
22 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2021More...
Background: Intimate relationships are ubiquitous and exert strong influence on health. Widespread disruption to them may impact wellbeing at a population level. We investigated the extent to which the first COVID-19 lockdown (March 2020) affected steady relationships in Britain.
Methods: 6,654 participants aged 18-59 years completed a web-panel survey between 29/7-10/8/2020. Quasi-representativeness was achieved via quota sampling and weighting. We explored changes in sex life (5 dimensions) and relationship quality (6 dimensions) among participants in steady relationships (n=4,271) by age, gender, and cohabitation status, and examined factors associated with deterioration to a lower quality relationship.
Results: 64.2% of participants were in a steady relationship, mostly cohabiting (88.8%). 22.1% perceived no change in their sex-life quality, and 59.5% no change in their relationship quality. Among those perceiving change, sex-life quality was more commonly reported to decrease and relationship quality to improve. There was significant variation by age, but less often by gender or cohabitation. Overall, 10.6% reported sexual difficulties that started or worsened during lockdown. 6.9% reported deterioration to a ‘lower quality’ relationship, more commonly those: aged 18-24 (women only OR 2.38;1·39-4·08) and aged 35-44 (women OR1.63;1.03-2.56, men OR 2.31;1.45-3.66) compared with those aged 45-59; not living with partner (women only aOR 2.01;1.28-3.16); and reporting depression/anxiety (e.g., depression (women aOR 2.56;1.79-3.64, men aOR 3.06;2.02–4.63).
Interpretation: Intimate relationship quality is yet another way in which COVID-19 has led to divergence in experience, with age a key determinant of impact.
Funding Information: Natsal (Wellcome Trust/ESRC/NIHR), MRC/CSO, UCL COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.
Declaration of Interests: The authors have no interests to declare.
Ethics Approval Statement: Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Glasgow MVLS College (20019174) and LSHTM research ethics committees (22565).
Keywords: COVID-19, steady relationship, sexual satisfaction, social support, relationship quality, sex life
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation