Sexual behaviour in Britain at the millennium

November 29, 2001

N.B. Please note that if you are outside North America the embargo for Lancet Press material is 0001 hours UK Time Friday 30th November 2001. Three articles and a Commentary in this week's issue of THE LANCET detail and analyse the results of the UK National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal 2000), and provide a comparison with the last survey done a decade ago (Natsal 1990). Natsal 2000 involved a detailed survey of over 11,000 men and women aged 16-44 years across the UK. The three papers each focus on a specific topic: partners, practices, and HIV risk behaviours; early heterosexual experience; and sexually transmitted infections and prevalent genital Chlamydia trachomatis infection.

Partners, practices, and HIV risk behaviours

Anne Johnson from University College London, UK, and colleagues report how patterns of heterosexual and homosexual partnership varied substantially in Natsal 2000 by age, residence in Greater London, and marital status. In the past 5 years, average numbers of heterosexual partners were around four for men, and around two for women. 2.6% of both men and women reported homosexual partnerships; and 4.3% of men reported paying for sex. In the past year, the average number of new partners varied from around two for single men aged 25-34 years to 0.05 for married women aged 35-44 years. Prevalence of many reported behaviours had risen compared with data from Natsal 1990; for men and women there were increases in: reported numbers of heterosexual partners ever and in the past 5 years; homosexual partnerships ever and in the past 5 years; concurrent partnerships, oral-genital contact and heterosexual anal sex in the past year; and consistent condom use in the past 4 weeks.

The investigators comment that the benefits of greater condom use in Natsal 2000 compared with Natsal 1990 were offset by increases in reported partners. Changes between the two surveys were generally greater for women than men and for respondents outside London.

Early heterosexual experience

Kaye Wellings from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and colleagues report that 30% of men and 26% of women aged 16-19 had heterosexual intercourse before 16 years of age; these percentages were substantially lower for women aged more than 30 years in the survey, and for men aged over 35 years. They also report a sustained increase in condom use. Non-use of contraception increased for people who were younger at first intercourse (reported by 18% of men and 22% women aged 13-14 years at occurrence). Early age at first intercourse was significantly associated with pregnancy under 18 years. Low educational attainment was associated with motherhood at younger than 18 years, but not abortion.

Sexually transmitted infections and prevalent genital Chlamydia trachomatis infection

Kevin Fenton from University College London and the UK Public Health Laboratory Service and colleagues report the data for the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They found that 10.8% of men and 12.6% of women reported ever having an STI. C trachomatis was found in 2.2% of men and 1·5% of women with age-specific prevalence being highest among men aged 25-34 and women aged 16-24 years. Non-married status, age, and reporting partner concurrency of two or more sexual partners in the past year were independently associated with infection with C trachomatis. The investigators conclude that the results have potentially wide application for proposed chlamydia screening programmes which should proactively seek to include men.

In an accompanying Commentary (p 1828), Ralph DiClemente from Emory University, Atlanta, USA, considers the clinical and public-health implications of Natsal 2000. He comments that sexual-health-promotion programmes are important in community settings in addition to the school environment. He concludes: "From an economic and social standpoint, STI and unintended pregnancy continue to exact a significant toll on individuals and, ultimately, on society. This toll can be measured in terms of projected costs of certain infections, such as chlamydia infections, and in terms of health outcomes, such as the number of ectopic pregnancies and the rate of infertility. The real concern, however, is that in an era when an STI, HIV-1 infection, can result in a fatal illness, AIDS, the impact of sexual risk behaviour is now being measured in terms of deaths. This shift makes the potential impact of sexual-health-promotion programmes all the more important, and means that the design, implementation, and evaluation of these programmes deserve high priority."
-end-
MEDIA BRIEFING: Authors of the three Natsal papers will present their findings at an embargoed media briefing; this will take place at 0930 H on Thursday 29 November at the Medical Research Council, 20 Park Crescent, London W1B 1AL. Further details available from the MRC Press Office (T) +44 (0)20 7637 6011.

Contact: Natsal authors c/o MRC Press Office, 20 Park Crescent, London W1B 1AL; T) +44 (0)20 7637 6011; F) +44 (0)20 7436 2665; E) press.office@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

Dr Ralph J DiClemente, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health and Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA; T) +1 404 727 0237; F) +1 404 727 1369; E) rdiclem@sph.emory.edu

Lancet

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.