Sex Roles [sers] pp834-sers-464567 April 18, 2003 19:47 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 48, Nos. 11/12, June 2003 (
Importance of and Satisfaction With Sex Life
in a Large Finnish Population
and Markku Koskenvuo
This paper describes ﬁve sex life issues in a Finnish population–based random sample (n =
21,101) between 20 and 54 years of age. The associations were studied with the following
demographic variables: gender, age, marital status, graduation from the 3 upper classes of
high school, vocational education, degree of urbanization, and province or area of the country.
Men considered sex life more important than women did. Women were more satisﬁed with
their sex lives, found it easier to talk about sex life with an important other, had had a spouse
or steady partner more often, but were also less satisﬁed with their present marriages or
marriage-like relationships. The above ﬁndings were most consistently shown in the Northern
KEY WORDS: ease in talking; importance; marital satisfaction; sex life; sexual satisfaction; spouse.
Sex life research is considered to be tethered
with the phenomena of a given time (Sievers,
Koskelainen, & Leppo, 1974), although sexuality as a
concept seems to elude scientists (Goettsch, 1989) and
has been particularly difﬁcult to deﬁne for medical
care purposes. Sievers et al. (1974) speciﬁed three his-
torical events needed before sexual behavior could be
studied: the development of physical natural sciences
(experiential, empirical, and naturalistic methods of
research), detachment from authoritarian hold, and
Darwin’s developmental theory about natural selec-
tion and interaction processes between genetics and
The ﬁrst Finnish survey inquiry on the sex life of
adults (18–54 years of age) was conducted by Sievers
et al. in 1971 (N = 2,188). Similar study questions
were next posed by Kontula and Haavio-Mannila
Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku, Turku,
Department of Biostatistics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
Turku City Hospital, Turku, Finland.
Department of Public Health, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
Public Health, University of Turku, Lemmink ¨aisenkatu 1, 20014
Turku, Finland; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1995a) to adults (18–74 years of age) in 1992 (N =
2,250) and again (18–81 years of age) in 1999 (N =
1,496). The response rates of the mail survey sections
were 91% (1971), 76% (1992), and 46% (1999), which
illustrates a continuous decline in response to ques-
tionnaires as recorded by Haavio-Mannila, Kontula,
and Kuusi (2001).
From the three study periods, the reported trends
included categories of sexual attitudes, sexual initia-
tion, love and commitment, sex habits, sexual prob-
lems, sexual satisfaction (for couples) in addition to
lifestyles and health (Haavio-Mannila et al., 2001;
Kontula & Haavio-Mannila, 1995a, 1995b; Sievers
et al., 1974).
Those were sociology studies, and the questions
were different in source, intent, and projected func-
tion from those in the present study. Sexuality was
considered an integral part of personality 20 years
ago, and it still is (e.g., Coleman, 2002). In addition to
cultural factors, biological and socialization processes
are of importance in sexual desire (Leiblum, 2002),
and they contribute to the totality of personal sex life
and the promotion of sexual health.
The importance of sex life was initially assessed
in 1971 (Sievers et al., 1974). However, the question
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation