Researchers have found that poor sexual health is more common in women and affects them in more diverse ways than men.
According to the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, out of 12,132 men and women included in the research, 17 per cent of men and 47.5 per cent of women in the UK reported poor sexual health.
"Sexual health is an umbrella term that covers several different health risks, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unplanned pregnancy, sexual function problems and sexual coercion," said study lead author Alison Parkes from the University of Glasgow in the UK.
"A greater understanding of how these risks are patterned across the population is needed to improve the targeting and delivery of sexual health programmes," Parkes added.
To get a better idea of how sexual health varies within the UK population, a team of researchers investigated patterns of sexual health markers, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexual function problems, in 12,132 sexually active men and women, aged 16-74 from England, Scotland and Wales, who were interviewed between 2010 and 2012.
Sexual health, socio-demographic, health and lifestyle
They also examined associations of sexual health with socio-demographic, health and lifestyle characteristics, as well as with satisfaction or distress with a person's sex life.
Based on markers of sexual health that were most common in different groups of people, the researchers identified sexual health classes, four of which were common to both men and women; Good Sexual Health (83 per cent of men, 52 per cent of women), Wary Risk-takers (four per cent of men, two per cent of women), Unwary Risk-takers ( four per cent of men, seven per cent women), and Sexual Function Problems (nine per cent of men, seven per cent of women).
Two additional sexual health classed were identified in women-only; a Low Sexual Interest class which included 29 per cent of women and a Highly Vulnerable class, reporting a range of adverse experiences across all markers of sexual health, which included two per cent of women.
Highly Vulnerable women more likely to report an abortion
Highly Vulnerable women were more likely to report an abortion than all other female sexual health classes except unwary risk-takers, and most likely to report STIs, the study said.
"We identified several groups who are not well served by current sexual health intervention efforts: men and women disregarding STI risks, women with a low interest in sex feeling distressed or dissatisfied with their sex lives, and women with multiple sexual health problems," she said.
However, the researchers also noticed that poor sexual health groups had certain characteristics in common. They were generally more likely to have started having sex before the age of 16; and to experience depression, alcohol or drug use, the research said.