It has been claimed that the average Briton has four sexual partners over a lifetime.

However, detailed new research suggests that figure may be wildly short of the mark.

Increasingly liberal attitudes mean one in five women now admit to having multiple sexual partners in a year. In men the figure is even higher at almost one in three.

The findings came in a BMC Health study of 30,000 sexually active men and women aged 16 to 44 over two decades.

Aimed at identifying changes in sexual behaviour between 1990 and 2010, the research found the percentage of females with two or more lovers in the previous 12 months rose from 9.9 per cent to 22.1 per cent.

Increasingly liberal attitudes mean one in five women now admit to having multiple sexual partners in a year. In men the figure is even higher at almost one in three. Stock Image

Increasingly liberal attitudes mean one in five women now admit to having multiple sexual partners in a year. In men the figure is even higher at almost one in three. Stock Image

The results also revealed that the number of men who had multiple lovers went up by almost two-thirds from 19.5 per cent to 32.1 per cent from 1990-2000.

But there was little change during the second decade, suggesting that such a lifestyle may have plateaued among the male population. In contrast, the proportion of women with two or more partners continued to rise between 2000 and 2010.

‘Significant changes in sexual lifestyles have been observed in Britain, as well as in other high-income countries, reflecting in part a trend in liberalising attitudes towards sex and sexuality,’ said the researchers from University College London and other centres.

It was suggested that reduced concerns about the threats of HIV and AIDS could also be a factor. Data published last year following a YouGov survey showed that the average Briton – or, more specifically, the average Briton who is willing to discuss the subject – has had four sexual partners.

The typical number over a lifetime is five for men and three for women.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey also revealed distinct differences across the age divide.

People aged 60 or over reported having an average of three lovers, while those aged between 40 and 59 claimed to have had six. Meanwhile, the generation of thirtysomethings averaged five, and just over one in five (21 per cent) of the 40-59 age group claimed to have slept with at least 15 people.

In addition, one in six (17 per cent) of respondents willing to disclose their tally of sexual partners say that they have slept with only one person over the course of their life. A reported 13 per cent of men said they had had just one lover, compared to 21 per cent of women.

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