Background The duration of partnerships and partner change rates contribute to STI transmission. Additionally, concurrent partnerships and short gaps between partnerships may be associated with STI spread. Few studies have examined the duration of sexual partnerships at the national level. We examined the duration of recent sexual partnerships reported by sexually active men and women in the US.
Methods Data were from a national survey of reproductive age men and women in the US 7470 men and women reported having an opposite-sex partner in the past year and reported on their recent sex partners (up to three). Duration of partnerships was measured in months; partnerships where respondents reported only having sex once were coded as 1-month in duration. Respondents indicated whether or not the partner was a current sex partner. Bivariate analyses examined duration of partnerships (mean) by demographics. Data were analysed separately for men and women. A subset of unmarried respondents was also examined.
Results Findings were similar for the entire sample and for those who were unmarried. Duration of most recent partnership was longer for women as compared to men, but men reported longer 2nd and 3rd most recent partnerships than women. Adolescents had the shortest duration for all three partnerships and were least likely to report that the partner was a current sex partner. There was no difference in duration of partnerships by race with the exception of black men having a shorter duration most recent partnership than other men. More black men but fewer black women reported that their most recent partner was a current partner as compared to other groups. However, black and Hispanic men were more likely to indicate that their second recent partnership was also current. For most recent and 2nd recent partnerships, married men and women reported the longest duration. For most recent partnership, unmarried men and all women with less than a high school education had a longer duration than their counterparts. There were no differences in whether the partner was current by education.
Conclusions Adolescents and black men had the shortest partnerships. Black women did not differ from white or Hispanic women in the duration of their partnerships. Men and women with short partnerships, overlapping and non-overlapping, may play a key role in the transmission of STIs.
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