Who reports sexual function problems? Empirical evidence from Britain’s 2000 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles
- 1Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London, Mortimer Market Centre, off Capper Street, London WC1E 6AU, UK
- 2HIV/STI Department, Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, 61 Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5EQ, UK
- 3London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK
- 4National Centre for Social Research, 35 Northampton Square, London EC1V 0AX, UK
- Correspondence to: Dr Catherine H Mercer Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London, Mortimer Market Centre, off Capper Street, London WC1E 6AU, UK;
- Accepted 1 April 2005
Objective: To identify sociodemographic, sexual, and health behavioural and attitudinal factors associated with reporting sexual function problems.
Methods: A probability sample survey of 11 161 men and women aged 16–44 years resident in Britain in 2000. Data collected by a combination of computer assisted face to face and self interviewing. Outcomes were self report of a range of sexual function problems, considered as “any problems” (1+ lasting 1+ months in the past year) and “persistent problems” (1+ lasting 6+ months in the past year), and associations with sociodemographic, behavioural, and attitudinal variables.
Results: Both “any” and “persistent” sexual function problems were more commonly reported by women than men. A variety of sociodemographic factors were associated with both measures but differed by gender. For example, the adjusted odds ratio (AOR) for reporting any problems for married v single respondents was 0.70 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.57 to 0.87) v 1.31 (95% CI 1.10 to 1.56) for men and women, respectively. Sexual behaviours significantly associated with reporting sexual function problems included competence at first sex, paying for sex in the past 5 years, number of occasions of sex and masturbation, both in the past 4 weeks. For men (only), reporting STI diagnosis(es) was significantly associated with reporting “any” problems (AOR 2.1, 95% CI 1.4 to 3.2) and “persistent” problems (AOR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1 to 3.9). Both measures were significantly more likely among men and women who reported communication difficulties with their partners, with AORs in excess of 1.9.
Conclusions: Sexual fulfilment is an important part of sexual health. Understanding factors associated with reporting sexual problems, and recognising that such factors maybe partnership specific, is an important step towards improving our understanding of sexual function and thus improving the provision of care and support available.
- AOR, adjusted odds ratio
- CASI, computer assisted self interview
- Natsal, National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles
- NHSLS, National Health and Social Lifestyle Survey
- STI, sexually transmitted infections
Funding: The study was supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council with funds from the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive, and the National Assembly for Wales.
Conflict of interests: None declared.