1 in 5 British adults say they've had an affair

William JordanUS Elections Editor
May 27, 2015, 8:38 AM GMT+0

Men are more likely to have affairs with 'work colleagues', women with 'friends'

Lovers generally try to keep the details of affairs under wraps, but respondents to a new YouGov survey for The Sun newspaper were surprisingly forthright.

Overall, one in five British adults admit to having had an affair, while a third say they have thought about it.

The survey also reveals that, of those who say they have had an affair, only half have stopped at one. A quarter have had two affairs, while 20% have had three or more. 8% have had five or more affairs.

What qualifies as an "affair"? Respondents were also asked specifically what sort of things they have done with people other than their partner. Though 20% admit to an "affair", 22% have romantically kissed someone else, but only 17% have slept with someone else – so perhaps the definition of "affair" lies somewhere in between. And most of the affairs don't appear to have been one-offs: 82% say their longest affair lasted for more than a week, while 7% say less and 6% don't know or don't say. 5% say their longest affair is still ongoing.

Men & Women

Men are slightly more likely than women to be repeat offenders (49% of cheating men have had more than one affair vs. 41% of women) and more likely to say they have thought about having an affair (37% vs. 29%). However, the number of men and women who have ever had an affair is essentially the same (20% and 19%).

The survey also investigated who were the most likely partners. 43% have had an affair with someone who qualified as a friend, while 38% have cheated with a work colleague, 18% with a stranger, 12% with an ex and 8% with a neighbour. 3% of affairs involve a partner’s relative.

This is another area where there are some differences between men and women. Over half of women who have had an affair have cheated with a friend, compared to just a third of men. Men who cheat, on the other hand, are more likely than women to do it with someone who is a work colleague, a stranger or neighbour.

Men and women also describe slightly different motivations for having their affairs. The main reasons cited by women are "I felt flatterered by the attention" (44%) and "I felt emotionally deprived in my relationship" (43%); among men they are, again, flattery (35%), but also dissatisfaction with their sex life (32%) – something mentioned by only 15% of women.


Respondents were allowed to opt out of the survey from the start, following a warning that there would be questions of “a personal nature about relationships” along with a reminder that there would be a “Prefer not to say” response option and that all answers are completely anonymous. 89% of respondents chose to participate. Men and women were equally likely to take part.

See the full poll results