The study also discovered that having many lifetime sexual partners was associated with lower sexual satisfaction.
Higher levels of sexual satisfaction are associated with strong religious beliefs, according to recent research.
Researchers found that people who perceive religion as important in their lives have less sex – driven by abstinence among those who do not live with a partner – but are happier with their sex life as a whole.
According to the study, having many or no lifetime sexual partners is linked to decreased sexual satisfaction. Both men and women's sexual pleasure were shown to be negatively associated with increased acceptance of casual sex or sex without love.
The study was carried out by Dr. Nitzan Peri-Rotem from the University of Exeter and Dr. Vegard Skirbekk from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Columbia University.
"The relationship between sex frequency and sexual satisfaction is neither simple nor straightforward; in all relationship types, too little or too much sex is associated with lower sexual satisfaction, suggesting that there is an optimal frequency relationship to higher satisfaction levels."
Researchers used data from the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles on men and women aged 18 to 59.
More religious married women reported greater sexual satisfaction than their less religious counterparts, but this association does not exist among married males. Moreover, single religious men reported greater sex life satisfaction. However, this relationship vanished when the sample was restricted to sexually active individuals.
One percent of men and 16% of women who responded to the survey agreed that religion and religious beliefs are very important to them. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they seldom, if ever, went to religious services. Half of respondents were married, a further 17% lived with a partner, and 5% had no stable partner.
Men reported a higher frequency of sex incidents in the last four weeks than women (4.4 vs. 4.0 respectively). 14% of women and 17% of men agreed with the statement "I am satisfied with my sex life."
Nearly 40% of men reported having ten or more sexual partners in their lifetime, compared to a quarter of women.
"Religious persons are less likely to engage in casual sex than are otherwise." However, it is possible that religious views about the sanctity of marital sex, as well as disapproval of sex outside marriage, are more important for women's sexual satisfaction than for men's.
The study suggests a strong correlation between educational attainment and sexual frequency and satisfaction. Highly educated individuals reported having less frequent sex as well as decreased satisfaction from sex life compared to those with lower qualifications.
“Our research suggests that changes in sexual behavior must be understood in the context of changing religious beliefs and other social level trends. The postponement of union formation is related to less frequent sex, while also increasing the exposure to casual sex among those with a less religious orientation.
“Having no sexual partners, as well as ten or more lifetime sexual partners, is associated with a decreased sense of sex life,” says the study. For men, on the other hand, no relationship exists between the number of lifetime sexual partners and sexual satisfaction.
"However, disapproval of sex without love and casual sex is linked to higher sex life satisfaction among both men and women." Likewise, sexual satisfaction increases with sex frequency, but decreases again at a greater number of sex occasions. Thus, having "too much" sex may lead to a reduced degree of sexual satisfaction from sex life.
Nitzan Peri-Rotem and Vegard Skirbekk, "Religiosity, Sex Frequency, and Sexual Satisfaction in Britain: Evidence from the Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal)," 26 August 2022, The Journal of Sex Research. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2022.2108745