NIHR supports world’s largest, most detailed study of sexual behaviour
The NIHR is supporting the world’s largest, most detailed study of sexual behaviour and wellbeing by joint funding the fourth wave of Britain’s National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal).
Natsal was initiated in response to the emerging HIV epidemic and has provided the evidence-base for major sexual health interventions and monitoring of their impact (including for models on cost-effectiveness). These include the National Chlamydia Screening Programme; enhanced HIV testing; HPV vaccination; and the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.
Three Natsal surveys have taken place at the turn of each decade since 1990, with a new wave of data collection (Natsal-4) due to begin in 2021.
This next wave of Natsal - led by researchers from UCL in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Glasgow and NatCen Social Research - is being funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Previous waves have been funded by the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health and Social Care.
For the 2021 survey, interviewers will collect information from nearly 10,000 people aged 15-59 using computerised questionnaires to ensure privacy. Survey answers will be combined with information from biological samples (e.g. to test for sexually transmitted infections) and routinely-collected data (e.g. health records).
Combining data from all four surveys will create a resource that provides a comprehensive picture of the sexual health of the nation and show how this has changed over time and across generations.
Professor Pam Sonnenberg, Co-Principal Investigator of the latest Natsal survey, said: “The three surveys to date have already had a major impact on policy, practice, and the public dialogue about sex. Natsal data have been – and will continue to be - used to plan services and monitor the progress of interventions and national strategies.”
Professor Dame Anne Johnson, who initiated Natsal in the late 1980s, said: “As Principal Investigator on the first three waves of Natsal, I am delighted that funding has been secured to ensure that the Natsal legacy continues to provide essential and novel data on sexual health”.
- Read about Natsal’s approach to collecting and exploiting data to understand sexual health in a new editorial in BMJ Sexually Transmitted Infections.