Article Text

Download PDFPDF

P11.02 Representing men who have sex with men (msm) in britain: evidence from comparative analyses of the latest convenience and probability surveys
  1. P Prah1,
  2. F Hickson2,
  3. C Bonell1,
  4. L McDaid3,
  5. B Erens1,2,
  6. J Riddell3,
  7. S Wayal1,
  8. A Nardone4,
  9. P Sonnenberg1,
  10. AM Johnson1,
  11. CH Mercer1
  1. 1University College London
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  3. 3University of Glasgow
  4. 4Public Health UK


Introduction Convenience samples of MSM are typically skewed towards gay-identified and community-attached men who do not necessarily represent all MSM, a key population for STI/HIV transmission. Comparing convenience samples with a probability sample of MSM enables us to assess their representativeness.

Methods We compared 148 MSM in Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), with men in Britain’s key convenience surveys of gay men: 15,500 in the European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS), 1,012 in the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey London (GMSHS-London), 1,234 in the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey Scotland (GMSHS-Scotland), all undertaken 2010–2012. Men were aged 18–64, resident in Britain, and reported >=1 male sexual partners (past year). Comparisons include demographic, health characteristics and sexual behaviours, using identically-worded questions. Multivariable analyses accounted for socio-demographic differences between the samples.

Results Convenience samples had significantly younger and better educated men than Natsal-3, and a larger proportion of men identifying as gay (88%–95% vs. 62%). Partner numbers were larger and same-sex anal sex more commonly reported by convenience samples but no significant differences were observed in age at first sex or reporting unprotected anal intercourse. Compared to Natsal-3, men in convenience samples were more likely to report HIV testing (past year) (all adjusted odds ratios (AORs) >=2.30, 95% CI lower bounds >=1.49) and gonorrhoea diagnoses (all AORs >=7.99, 95% CI lower bounds >=1.11). However, fewer differences between samples were observed when analyses focused on MSM who identified as gay.

Conclusion Participation bias may mean convenience samples of MSM demographically misrepresent and over-estimate sexual activity and HIV testing for the entire MSM population. However, they may be more representative of gay-identified MSM, capture a broader range of behaviours and achieve larger samples, relative to general population surveys. Methods are needed to triangulate data from different surveys to strengthen the evidence-base for MSM.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.