Men have twice as many sexual partners over their lifetime
Men have twice as many sexual partners as women over the course of their lives, research suggests.
The Health Survey for England found that men reported having 9.3 different partners on average, with a quarter boasting of more than 10 conquests.
However, a third of those questioned admitted they were only estimating the number of notches on their bedposts.
Women had an average of 4.7 sexual partners, with a quarter having just one.
They were more likely to be certain of the number of lovers they had.
The report said: "More women than men reported having sexual intercourse with only one partner of the opposite sex in their lifetime (24pc of women compared with 17pc of men), and conversely more men than women reported having sexual intercourse with 10 or more partners of the opposite sex (27pc of men and 13pc of women)."
Older women were also far less likely to be sexually active, with 36pc saying they had not had a partner in the past year, which was the case for a fifth of respondents overall.
The poll of 14,000 people, published by the NHS Information Centre yesterday, suggested that younger generations were losing their virginity earlier and taking more risks sexually.
Tim Straughan, the centre's chief executive, said the annual report "paints a picture of sexual behaviour which is changing over the generations, with younger women tending to begin having sex younger".
A fifth of men and one in seven women said they had intercourse before their sixteenth birthday, and the median age for people losing their virginity was 17.
Although most said they used contraception, a fifth of young women had needed to turn to the morning-after pill in the past year, and 17pc of those aged between 16 and 34 had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
The report noted that the teenage-pregnancy rate in England, although falling to a 20-year low in 2009 of 40 conceptions per 1,000, "is still high when compared with Western Europe".
Anne Milton, Britain's public health minister, said: "Young people should think carefully before having sex: it's not something to rush into.
"Consider seriously if it's right for you, what contraception to use and the best way to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections." (© Daily Telegraph, London)