Changes in Penile-Vaginal Intercourse Frequency and Sexual Repertoire from 2009 to 2018: Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior

Arch Sex Behav. 2022 Apr;51(3):1419-1433. doi: 10.1007/s10508-021-02125-2. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


Solo and partnered sexual behaviors are relevant to health, well-being, and relationships. Recent research shows that sexual frequency has declined in the U.S. and in other countries; however, measurement has been imprecise. We used data from 14- to 49-year-old participants in the 2009 and 2018 waves of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB), a confidential U.S. nationally representative survey that is conducted online. We aimed to: (1) assess changes in frequency of past-year penile-vaginal intercourse and (2) examine combinations of past-year sexual behaviors for each of the two waves. We hypothesized that we would observe lower frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) from 2009 to 2018 and that we would observe greater engagement in sexual repertoires involving non-coital partnered behaviors (e.g., partnered masturbation, oral sex) in 2018 as compared to 2009. Participants were 4155 individuals from the 2009 NSSHB (Adolescents: 406 females, 414 males; Adults: 1591 women, 1744 men) and 4547 individuals from the 2018 NSSHB (Adolescents: 416 females, 411 males; Adults: 2007 women, 1713 men). Compared to adult participants in the 2009 NSSHB, adults in the 2018 NSSHB were significantly more likely to report no PVI in the prior year (28% in 2018 vs. 24% in 2009). A similar difference in proportions reporting no PVI in the prior year was observed among 14-17-year-old adolescents (89% in 2018 vs. 79% in 2009). Additionally, for both adolescents and adults, we observed decreases in all modes of partnered sex queried and, for adolescents, decreases in solo masturbation.

Keywords: Masturbation; National Survey of Sexual Health and Relationships; Penile-vaginal intercourse frequency; Sexual frequency; Sexual repertoire.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Coitus*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masturbation
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners
  • Young Adult