Heterosexual practices among young people in Britain: evidence from three national surveys of sexual attitudes and lifestyles

Lewis, R. , Tanton, C., Mercer, C.H., Mitchell, K.R. , Palmer, M., Macdowall, W. and Wellings, K. (2017) Heterosexual practices among young people in Britain: evidence from three national surveys of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(6), pp. 694-702. (doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.07.004) (PMID:29169520) (PMCID:PMC5723633)

145147.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.



Purpose: To describe time trends and current patterns in sexual practices with opposite-sex partners among men and women aged 16–24 years in Britain. Methods: Complex survey analyses of cross-sectional probability survey data from three British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), conducted approximately decennially 1990–2012, involving interviews with 45,199 people in total. Results: Birth cohort analysis showed a decline in the median age at first sexual experience and first intercourse since the midtwentieth century and a narrowing of the interval between these events. Comparison of data from Natsals 1, 2, and 3 showed increases in the prevalence of ever experience of oral and anal sex among 16- to 24-year-olds, which were more marked among older respondents in this age group between Natsals 1 and 2, and among younger respondents between Natsals 2 and 3. Among the sexually active, vaginal and oral sex remained the most common combination of practices reported in the past year. The proportion reporting a past-year repertoire of vaginal, oral, and anal sex rose from approximately one in 10 in 1990–1991 to approximately one in four men and one in five women in 2010–2012. In the latest survey, heterosexual experience of practices was positively associated with bisexual attraction among women. Conclusions: Recent decades have seen an earlier age at initiation of partnered sexual experiences and increased diversity in heterosexual practices among young people. Keeping pace with trends in sexual practices is necessary to safeguard young people's health and to support them in increasing their sexual well-being.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Kirstin and Lewis, Dr Ruth
Authors: Lewis, R., Tanton, C., Mercer, C.H., Mitchell, K.R., Palmer, M., Macdowall, W., 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:20 November 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Adolescent Health 61(6):694-702
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631Social Relationships & Health ImprovementLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit