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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 24 May, 2018
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How many times a week? Sex in Ireland by the numbers

The facts (and figures) of life.

TO START OFF TheJournal.ie‘s special series this week, this article examines some of the facts and figures that make up sex in Ireland, now and in our recent past.

Using publicly-available, official data, we’ve examined a series of studies and reports on sex, health, and the facts of life, over the last few years.

We crunched the numbers, and here’s what we learned:

A few times a month is our lot

frequency Source: Image: Shutterstock

There’s a wide variety, of course, but most Irish people (58%) have sex less than once a week, with 28% having sex less than once a month.

Some 42% of us have sex anywhere between once a week, and every day, although the latter group is very small, as shown in the graph above.

According to the Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships, about 15% of Irish people have intercourse once a year or less frequently.

Half of married people have sex less than once a week.

Very few of us have ever had anal sex

types Source: Image: Shutterstock

The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships asked people about the last time they had various types of sex, and got some really interesting answers.

First off, among heterosexuals vaginal intercourse is easily the most common. 93% of Irish adults have tried it at least once, compared with 63 and 66% who said they’d tried giving and receiving oral sex.

Not many of us seem to be terribly keen on anal intercourse, though, with just 9.75% saying they had ever given it a go.

Interestingly, men were far more likely to report oral sex than women were. For example, 74% of men said they had received oral sex at least once in their life, while just 58% of women said they had given (or received) oral sex.

The study also asked respondents when the last time they had different kinds of sex was, as shown in the graph above.

Roughly half (49%) said they had had vaginal intercourse in the last seven days, and 18% said it was within the previous month.

The results on frequency of oral sex were also revealing.

Irish men and women are apparently more likely to have never given or gotten it (37 and 34%), than to have given or gotten it within the last month (31%).

Irish men have a LOT more sexual partners than Irish women

partners Source: Image: Shutterstock

According to the Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships, men in Ireland have, on average, had three times as many sexual partners as women.

That is, nine as opposed to three.

That gap lowers dramatically, though, when the time period is limited to the last five years and last 12 months of an individual’s life, as shown in the graph above.

Interestingly, the study found that most men and women have had fewer partners than would appear on the graph.

While the median is four sexual partners for men, and one for women, a small number of individuals with a high number of sexual partners skew the data towards the mean of nine and three shown in the graph.

The report found that 1% of Irish men have had sex with more than 70 different people, and 1% of women, with more than 18 partners.

Our ‘first time’ is happening earlier and earlier

agefirstsex Source: Image: Shutterstock

The age at which Irish people have sex for the first time is getting lower and lower.

2012 study by the Department of Health and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency found that, among young people, most have sex for the first time at the age of 17.

The last comprehensive and official report on sexual habits and attitudes in Ireland was in 2006, but that too found that, among 18 to 24-year-olds, the average age of first heterosexual, vaginal intercourse was:

  • 16.9 for men, and 17.4 for women.

By contrast, those aged between 60 and 64 had sex for the first time when they were 23, and that age has fallen steadily in the intervening years, as shown in the chart above.

According to the Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships, men have always been younger on average than women, when having sex for the first time.

Interestingly, though, that age gap was greater for 18 to 24-year-olds (six months) than it was for 60 to 64-year-olds (just over one month).

The report also found that men were far more likely than woman to have had sex while under the age of 17 (21% as opposed to 12%)

We’ve been having more babies since Italia ’90

births Source: Image: Shutterstock

(To view a larger version of this graph, click here)

Ireland’s birth rate has varied a good bit over the past quarter of a century, but the overall trend is clear – we’re having more babies.

Between 1990 and 2013 (the most recent figures available), a grand total of 1,450,442 children were born in Ireland, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The lowest number in a single year came in 1994, when there were 48,255 births, a year which also saw our lowest birth rate (13.5 per 1,000 in the population).

That jumped by 57% to 75,554 in 2009, the highest total in a single year since 1990. Our highest birth rate came the previous year, when there were 16.8 per 1,000 in the population.

Interestingly, while there were 53,044 babies born in Ireland in 1990, and 68,930 in 2013, our growing population means the birth rate now (15) is at roughly the same level it was back then (15.1).

Mothers are getting older

motherage Source: Image: Shutterstock

Every year, the CSO also gathers data on the women who give birth to all those babies, and the numbers show they’re getting older.

In 1980, the average age of a mother at the time of her child’s birth was 28 years, nine months and two weeks.

In the last few decades, that age has never once fallen below what it was the previous year, reaching 32 years and one month in 2013.

Sexually transmitted infection rates are way, way up

STI1995_2013 Source: Image: Shutterstock

(To view a larger version of this graph, click here)

In the last 20 years or so, there has been a worryingly steep rise in the number (and rate) of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) being reported to Irish health authorities.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) carefully monitors and analyses cases of STIs, and produces weekly bulletins on the latest trends.

Analysing a major HPSC 2012 report, as well as figures from 2013, we can see a major increase in the prevalence of STIs in Ireland over the last two decades, as shown in the graph above.

The infection rate for all categories, which takes in account any changes in population, has rocketed by 216%, from 92.8 “notifications per 100,000″ in 1995, to 292.8 in 2011.

By far the most prevalent STIs in that period have been chlamydia and genital warts. Since 1995, their infection rates have been more than double all other categories combined.

However, as can be seen in the graph above, there has been a significant increase in the rate of chlamydia infection in recent years, while the prevalence of genital warts has declined significantly between 2003 and 2013.

irelandSTI2014 Source: HPSC.ie

A preliminary report for 2014 gives an interesting insight into the geographic distribution of STI infection rates.

Data taken from the HPSC’s Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting system, and analysed by TheJournal.ie, shows that the East region of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow had the highest rate of infection.

By contrast, the Midlands region of Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath had the lowest, at 45% below the national average.

Explore the data for yourself: 

CSO.ie for statistics on births
HPSC.ie for information and data on STIs and HIV
Crisis Pregnancy Agency for research and data on attitudes to sex and relationships.

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Read: Ireland’s Sex Shops – ‘Everyone has a kink, they just might not know it yet’>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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