Survey results for

May/June: Sexual Health Awareness Survey May 2015

Good sexual health is important for individuals but it is also a key public health issue. Much progress has been made in some areas of sexual health over the last few years. For example according to a report in 2013 by the Department of Health, rates of teenage pregnancy are at their lowest level since records began and, although there is still no cure for HIV, early diagnosis means that most people with HIV can expect to live a near-normal life expectancy.[1]

Ahead of our Online Clinic on Sexual Health opening from 8-12 June 2015, we wanted to find out more about general awareness of sexual health amongst our visitors and members, and better understand whether people are practicing safe sex. We also wanted to know how informed our audience are about sexually transmitted infections and if they know where to go if they are experiencing symptoms.

We discovered that the majority of those who completed our survey lost their virginity between the ages of 16-25 (65%) or over 25 (13%) but a surprisingly large amount were under 16 (22%). It is important that sexual health education is available to people of all ages to ensure they are making informed decisions about their sex lives including contraception and also that they know where to go if they have a problem.

Where are people learning about sex?

Sexual health remains a much discussed topic in the media and there have been many reports about the dangers of children being exposed to pornography on the internet instead of receiving support and education from people they trust.

The majority of those who took our survey and are under the age of 30, first learned about sex at school (61%) or from friends (46%). A large amount found out about sex from TV, Magazines and the Internet (49%), and only 19% from their parents or siblings. The majority of those over 30 also learned at school (55%) or via their friends (42%), and 27% from their parents or siblings. In comparison to the under 30s, only 12% or the over 30s learned from TV, Magazines and the internet. As we live in an age of fast moving technology, the younger generation are now more reliant on outside media sources to first learn about sex compared with the older generation who had to rely on their families and schools more for information.

Contraception

We also wanted to find out more about the use of contraception, also known as birth control amongst our audience. 96% of those who completed our survey are sexually active and 87% have previously used some form of contraception. 59% are not currently using any form of contraception, but many stopped taking contraception after the age of 30 for various reasons including trying to have children, menopause and health conditions.

The most popular forms of contraception amongst our participants are condoms (44%) and the oral contraceptive pill (36%). Other less popular forms include the IUD or Coil (17%), implants (10%) and injections. Only 1% of those who took the survey use femidoms.

The only methods of contraception that can protect against both pregnancy and STIs are condoms or femidoms. The majority of our participants were aware of this however, a small number believed that the contraceptive pill (13%), the IUD/Coil (7%) and implants (7%) can also protect against both, but these are only effective against pregnancy and do not protect from the transfer of STIs.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Of those who are sexually active only 56% have ever been tested for STIs and 34% have had a one night stand with unprotected sex. 15% admit to having had an STI at one point in their lives. Some of those who took our survey were aware that STIs can be passed on through any sexual contact including vaginal, anal and oral sex but not all were aware that all sexual contact holds a risk.

STIs do not always display symptoms. For example, some common infections such as Chlamydia rarely show any symptoms at all. If you are concerned about STIs or you are showing symptoms it is important to understand where to go if you do need to be tested. 31% were not aware of the location of their local GUM (genitourinary medicine) or sexual health clinic.

If you need advice about any aspects of sexual health, including STIs or contraception, you can contact your local GUM/Sexual Health Clinic and discuss it with a trained professional. You could also take a look at our Online Clinic on Sexual Health running from 8-12 June and open now for questions. talkhealth are teaming up The STI Clinic, and the charities Saving Lives and Women’s Health Concerns to offer support and guidance. Experts will be available for the whole week to answer questions on all aspects of sexual health.

[1] A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England

If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.