One in 10 women in a survey of more than 11,000 people aged between 16 and 44 admitted to having lost interest in sex for at least six months in the past year.
University College London researcher Catherine Mercer said 4 per cent of women also reported inability to have an orgasm.
The study indicated that married women were much more likely than single men or women to have sexual problems. And both sexes tended to suffer in silence when faced with sexual problems, among which were loss of libido, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
More than half of the women (54 per cent) and 35 per cent of men had problems, but fewer than 11 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women sought help, according to the survey, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.
For men and women, their first sexual encounter could be crucial to their future attitude to sex. The worse the experience, the more difficulty they might have in later life.
Couples had sex on average four times a month. Dr Mercer said: “People who had less than this were more likely to report sexual problems both short and long-term. Within a relationship, those less able to talk freely had more problems.”
The sex drive of women dropped sharply from those first heady months when they first fell in love. “Women were more likely to report problems if they had kids in the house under the age of five,” Dr Mercer said. “That, of course, seems quite logical with the lack of sleep they are suffering.”
The research seemed to concur with the aphorism from starlet Jerry Hall: “My mother said it was simple to keep a man. You must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I said I’d hire the other two and take care of the bedroom bit.”
The findings for men were rather different.
David Goldmeier, of the sexual function clinic at St Mary’s Hospital in London, wrote an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.
“There is nothing actually wrong with these women,” he said. “Bringing up a family, they are just tired and exhausted as opposed to the men, who have 10 times the level of testosterone.
“A lot of women are very active sexually in the first 18 months to three years of a relationship and have a lot of spontaneous sexual desire; but then that goes.”