Sexual function in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)


Mitchell, K; Mercer, CH; Ploubidis, G; Jones, K; Datta, J; Field, N; Copas, AJ; Tanton, C; Erens, B; Sonnenberg, P; Clifton, S; MacDowall, W; Phelps, A; Johnson, AM; Wellings, K; (2013) Sexual function in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Lancet. ISSN 0140-6736 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62366-1

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Abstract

Background: Despite its importance to sexual health and well-being, sexual function is given little attention in sexual health policy. Population-based studies are needed to understand sexual function across the life course. Methods: During 2010-2012, we undertook a probability sample survey of 15,162 men and women aged 16-74 resident in Britain. We assessed the distribution of sexual function using a novel measure (the Natsal-SF), comprising three components: problems with individual sexual response, sexual function in relationship context and self-appraisal of sex life. We explore factors associated with low sexual function (lowest quintile of distribution), as well as the distribution of components of the measure. Findings: There is a gradual age-related decline in sexual function among men and women to age 55-64. Low function was associated with relationship unhappiness, higher numbers of lifetime sexual partners (women only) and paying for sex (men only), and with negative sexual health outcomes such as STI diagnosis and experience of non-volitional sex. The most common problems with sexual response reported by sexually active men were: lacking interest in sex (15.0%), premature climax (14.9%), and erectile difficulties (12.8%); and among sexually active women: lacking interest in sex (34.2%), difficulty reaching climax (16.3%), vaginal dryness (12.9%) and lack of enjoyment (12.1%). For those in a sexual relationship for the last year, the most common issue with relationship function was an imbalance in level of interest in sex (23.4% of men and 27.4% of women). Compared with sexually active participants, men and women who did not report sex in the past year were more likely to report sexual dissatisfaction and to have avoided sex because of sexual difficulties. Interpretation: Low sexual function is associated with poorer sexual health status, supporting calls for greater emphasis on sexual function in sexual health interventions.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Population Health (2012- ) > Dept of Population Studies (1974-2012)
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Population Health (2012- )
Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Health Services Research and Policy
PubMed ID: 24286787
Web of Science ID: 327540700026
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/1367705

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