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Home / Health & Science

Report: Lockdowns kill sex in most marriages

By GATONYE GATHURA | Wed,Mar 24 2021 00:00:00 EAT

 Pouting woman in her 20s sits on edge of bed frustrated that her male partner is working on his laptop computer in bed [Courtesy]

The ongoing Covid-19 related restrictions have been blamed for a spike in bedroom stress, especially among men aged between 31 and 50.

Forty-one per cent of married couples surveyed in Kenya say they are less satisfied with their sex lives compared to only 26 per cent before the pandemic.

The new study by Amref Health Africa says men are more dissatisfied than women and warns that lockdowns may be causing more mental health problems than previously thought.

The study recorded a general decline in the frequency of marital intimacy during the pandemic, compared to the time before Covid-19.

Covid 19 Time Series


“The perceived increase in dissatisfaction with sex could be a pointer to the falling quality of life during Covid-19 pandemic,” says Joachim Osur, the technical director at Amref Health Africa and lead investigator.

He said the most affected were men aged between 31 and 50 because this is usually the most sexually active age group in marriage.

Sexual satisfaction, Prof Osur said, is a measure of the quality of life in a community and that it is declining should be a cause for worry.

This, he said, may partially explain the increased reports of domestic violence, a possible pointer to more social strife, including drug abuse, suicides and possible homicides.

Osur, with colleagues Edward Mugambi Ireri and Tammary Esho of Amref International University and Amref Health Africa respectively, suggested that lockdown policies be sensitive to possible marital stress, depression and mental illness.

“Covid-19 control measures should incorporate ways of enhancing sexual well-being,” says the study published last Friday in the journal Sexual Medicine.

Osur suggests that such measures should include more interaction with marriage and family counsellors, relationship talks and access to mental health services.

The sampling, the team says, was conducted among 20 virtual social groups of married couples with a total membership of about 3,000 from across Kenya.

The vast majority of respondents, however, were from Nairobi, with about 61 per cent being male and the largest group having been in marriage for 11 to 20 years.

The researchers wanted to know how Covid-19 control measures imposed by the government early last year had affected people’s sexual satisfaction and overall quality of life.

“The study showed a pattern of increasing dissatisfaction with sex during Covid-19 lockdown compared to before the pandemic among married couples in Kenya.”

Most (73.4 per cent) of the participants reported that they had been satisfied with their marital sex before Covid-19 but only 58.4 per cent said they were satisfied during the pandemic.

Epicentre of the disease

Up to 41.3 per cent reported that they were currently sexually dissatisfied, while only 26.6 per cent said they had been dissatisfied prior to the pandemic.

The team says the findings may not mirror what is happening across the country because most respondents were from Nairobi, the epicentre of the disease and which has seen more stringent enforcement of restrictions.

“But they give a good indicator of some unintended negative health effects of the otherwise well-meant restrictions; which need to be addressed,” said Osur.

At the outbreak of the disease in Kenya last year, the government had imposed travel restrictions, closed bars and schools, imposed a curfew and banned political and other social gatherings and encouraged people to work from home.

“These restrictions have led to a change in living circumstances, with increased family supervision, less personal freedom and privacy and deteriorating mental health,” said the study.

Women though, the team says, seem to cope better than men. “Most women were quite happy being indoors even while tending to a whole brood for long hours unlike a largely impatient dad,” said Osur.

That a man could not just saunter to the bar, go cheer his favourite football team with friends, and had to spend long hours closeted with the children, the researcher says, has proved trying for most.

“These, coupled with declining financial opportunities, maybe the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Osur.

A report from the Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana found that 40 per cent of people surveyed in the US reported a decline in their sex life during the pandemic. A smaller survey in China yielded similar results.


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