Sex is meant to be an enjoyable and mutually fun activity, but a new study has found that nearly one in 10 British women find sex painful. For some women, the discomfort was so great that they completely avoided intercourse. The research reveals just how common the condition, referred to as dyspareunia, can be, and urges women to speak with their doctors because it's nearly always treatable.

The survey was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University College London and NatCen Social Research, and included the testimonials of nearly 7,000 sexually active women between the ages of 16 and 74. Results revealed that nearly one in 10 women suffered from dyspareunia. Women in their late 50s and early 60s were the most likely to be affected by this condition, followed by women aged 16 to 24. Of those who reported painful sex, a quarter experienced symptoms frequently or every time they had had intercourse in the last six months or more, The BBC reported.

Read: Is Vaginismus Behind Your Painful Sex Life?

According to the report, the women’s painful sex was caused by a number of different issues, with both physical and psychological roots. For example, some were due to untreated sexually transmitted infections, endometriosis, a condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, and fibroids, a type of growth that forms in the uterus — all of which are treatable. Much of the sexual discomfort experienced by older women may be related to vaginal dryness as a result of menopause. For others, especially the younger women, the researchers noted, discomfort may be related to anxiety about being new to sex or lack of trust with a sexual partner.

"Often sex education is about STIs and pregnancy, but it should also prepare people to think about what makes sex enjoyable and how to communicate what they like and dislike in a trusting and respectful relationship," lead researcher, Dr. Kirstin Mitchell told The BBC.

In addition, the report suggested that a woman’s body size may reflect her sexual satisfaction as around a third of obese women said they were dissatisfied with their sex life. This was compared with one tenth of the women who didn't report painful sex. This finding is backed by a 2011 study from Duke University that surveyed 134 moderately to severely overweight men and women and found that both were less likely to have orgasms, enjoy sex, and feel aroused than the general population.

Regardless of the cause of sexual discomfort, Mitchell emphasized the importance of women talking to their doctors about these problems, as most issues are remedied with either medication or therapy.

"Many women don't like to talk about it. We share all the gore of childbirth, yet women of my generation don't tend to talk openly about sex and the menopause,” Karen* a 62-year old woman in Greater London, dealing with painful sex, who chose to keep her identity anonymous, told The BBC. “We should."

Source: Mitchell KR, Geary R, Graham CA, et al. Painful sex (dyspareunia) in women: prevalence and associated factors in a British population probability survey. International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology . 2017

See Also:

If Sex Wasn't So Enjoyable, Perhaps Even Painful, As Intelligent Beings Would We Do It Anyway To Preserve The Species?

Use It Or Lose It: How Age, Hormones, And Masturbation Predict Sexual Health