TUESDAY, Nov. 29, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- A new study is challenging the widely held notion that men's minds are preoccupied with one topic: sex.
The research in college-age participants suggests that while men do think about sex more often than women, the subject crosses their mind an average of only about 19 times per day, compared to 10 times per day for women.
The results seem to disprove the popular notion that men think about sex every seven seconds, which would total more than 8,000 thoughts about sex in 16 waking hours, the Ohio State University researchers said.
"It's amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do," lead author Terri Fisher, a professor of psychology, said in a university news release. "When a man hears a statement like that, he might think there's something wrong with him because he's not spending that much time thinking about sexuality, and when women hear about this, if they spend significant time thinking about sex they might think there's something wrong with them."
The study also found that men spend more time than women thinking about other biological needs, such as food and sleep.
The study included 163 female and 120 male college students, aged 18 to 25, who recorded their thoughts about sex, sleeping and eating every day for a week.
The frequency of thoughts about sex ranged widely between individual men and individual women -- between one and 388 thoughts per day among the men, and between one and 140 times a day among the women.
"For women, that's a broader range than many people would have expected. And there were no women who reported zero thoughts per day. So women are also thinking about sexuality," Fisher said.
The researchers also found that a person's comfort with sexuality was the best predictor of which people would have sex on the brain most often.
"If you had to know one thing about a person to best predict how often they would be thinking about sex, you'd be better off knowing their emotional orientation toward sexuality, as opposed to knowing whether they were male or female," Fisher said.
"Frequency of thinking about sex is related to variables beyond one's biological sex," she added.
Fisher and her colleagues also found that men thought about food an average of nearly 18 times per day and sleep almost 11 times per day. Women thought about food an average of nearly 15 times per day and about sleep 8.5 times per day.
"Since we looked at those other types of need-related thoughts, we found that it appears that there's not just a sex difference with regard to thoughts about sex, but also with regard to thoughts about sleep and food," Fisher said.
"That's very significant. This suggests males might be having more of these thoughts than women are or they have an easier time identifying the thoughts. It's difficult to know, but what is clear is it's not uniquely sex that they're spending more time thinking about, but other issues related to their biological needs, as well."
The study appears online and in the January print issue of the Journal of Sex Research.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an overview of sexual health.