OBJECTIVES: To begin to map the reported behaviours and attitudes of young Britons of south Asian origin that may have implications for sexual health. "South Asian" refers to people able to trace their ancestry from the Indian subcontinent (that is, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), henceforth referred to as "Asian". DESIGN: A cross sectional study of sexual behaviour using self report measures in a self complete section of a social survey administered by trained interviewers in 1996. SETTING: Greater Glasgow, Scotland. SUBJECTS: Sample (n = 824) originally recruited aged 14-15 in 1992 in secondary schools in Greater Glasgow and subsequently traced through general practitioner registration for 1996 survey. 492 Asians and non-Asians aged 18-20 years old eventually interviewed in their own homes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self reported experience of sexual intercourse, age at first intercourse, and contraceptive practice over year before interview. METHODS: Measures of sexual behaviour and attitudes were elicited through a self complete questionnaire filled out in the presence of, and returned to, a trained social interviewer. RESULTS: Asians, and particularly Asian women, were far less likely to report having had heterosexual intercourse. Those Asian women who had had intercourse were likely to do so for the first time at an older age, and with an older partner, than the non-Asian women. Asian women were less likely to report using the pill than non-Asian women, irrespective of their marital status, and Asian men were less likely than non-Asian men to report using condoms. Asian sexual abstinence was reported to be for religious reasons, which were not important for non-Asians. In contrast with non-Asians, Asians saw themselves as likely to be married with children within the next 5 years. Asian men considered the ideal age to marry for men and women to be younger than the non-Asian men's average estimate. Asian and non-Asian women suggested a similar ideal age for men to marry, but Asian women considered a younger age appropriate for women than did non-Asian women. CONCLUSIONS: The higher level of sexual abstinence among Asians, and particularly women, has implications for the delivery of sexual health services to the minority who are sexually active before marriage. The underreporting of condom use by Asian men compared with their non-Asian counterparts, suggests a failure of the existing sexual health education and health services to reach minority ethnic young men which may be remedied by collaborative work with institutions currently used by the Asian community.
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