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O029 Sexual function problems in British 16–21 year olds: Cause for concern?
  1. Kirstin Mitchell1,2,
  2. Rebecca Geary3,
  3. Cynthia Graham4,
  4. Soazig Clifton3,
  5. Catherine Mercer3,
  6. Ruth Lewis2,
  7. Wendy Macdowall2,
  8. Jessica Datta2,
  9. Anne Johnson3,
  10. Kaye Wellings2
  1. 1University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3University College London, London, UK
  4. 4University of Southampton, Southampton, UK


Background/introduction Sexual function is largely absent from the policy discourse on young people’s sexual health. The omission is troubling, given the link between low sexual function and indicators of risk (including higher partner numbers, paying for sex, non-consensual sex and STI diagnosis). An absence of data permits this silence.

Aim(s)/objectives To address the gap in empirical data on sexual function problems in young people aged 16 to 21 in Britain.

Methods Descriptive statistics from a national probability survey of 15,162 British men and women (Natsal-3), undertaken from 2010–2012 using computer-assisted self-interviews (CASI). Complex survey analyses of data from participants aged 16–21 (854 men and 1021 women sexually active in the last year; 262 men and 255 women sexually experienced but not active in the last year).

Results Distressing sexual function problems (>3months in last year) were reported by 9.1% of men and 13.4% of women. Most common among men was reaching a climax too quickly (4.5%) and among women, difficulty reaching climax at all (6.3%). The majority of young people experiencing problems did not seek help, and those that did rarely sought out professionals. Around 6% of those currently sexually active, and 10% of those not so, reported avoiding sex because of sexual function problems.

Discussion/conclusion Sexual function problems are common among young people and are largely unaddressed. Addressing these clear needs will have benefits for other aspects of sexual health. Reassurance in clinical settings and information/advice in educational settings are inexpensive and potentially effective strategies.

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