Sexual function in 16- to 21-year-olds in Britain

Mitchell, K. R. , Geary, R., Graham, C., Clifton, S., Mercer, C. H., Lewis, R. , Macdowall, W., Datta, J., Johnson, A. M. and Wellings, K. (2016) Sexual function in 16- to 21-year-olds in Britain. Journal of Adolescent Health, 59(4), pp. 422-428. (doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.05.017) (PMID:27496078) (PMCID:PMC5026680)

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Purpose: Concern about young people's sexuality is focused on the need to prevent harmful outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. Although the benefit of a broader perspective is recognized, data on other aspects of sexuality, particularly sexual function, are scant. We sought to address this gap by measuring the population prevalence of sexual function problems, help seeking, and avoidance of sex in young people. Methods: A cross-sectional stratified probability sample survey (Natsal-3) of 15,162 women and men in Britain (response rate: 57.7%), using computer-assisted self-interviews. Data come from 1875 (71.9%) sexually active, and 517 sexually inactive (18.7%), participants aged 16–21 years. Measures were single items from a validated measure of sexual function (the Natsal-SF). Results: Among sexually active 16- to 21-year-old participants, 9.1% of men and 13.4% of women reported a distressing sexual problem lasting 3 months or more in the last year. Most common among men was reaching a climax too quickly (4.5%), and among women was difficulty in reaching climax (6.3%). Just over a third (35.5%) of men and 42.3% of women reporting a problem had sought help, but rarely from professional sources. Among those who had not had sex in the last year, just >10% of young men and women said they had avoided sex because of sexual difficulties. Conclusions: Distressing sexual function problems are reported by a sizeable minority of sexually active young people. Education is required, and counseling should be available, to prevent lack of knowledge, anxiety, and shame progressing into lifelong sexual difficulties.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lewis, Dr Ruth and Mitchell, Professor Kirstin
Authors: Mitchell, K. R., Geary, R., Graham, C., Clifton, S., Mercer, C. H., Lewis, R., Macdowall, W., Datta, J., Johnson, A. M., and Wellings, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Journal of Adolescent Health
ISSN (Online):1879-1972
Published Online:03 August 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Adolescent Health 59(4):422-428
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631SPHSU Core Renewal: Relationships & Health Improvement Research ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU