New report reveals sexual behaviour across the different age groups

Published on Thursday, 15 December 2011 12:18
Written by Scott Buckler

Some 27 per cent of women aged between 16 and 24 reported having sex when they were below 16 – a greater proportion than women in any previous generation covered by the survey

This contrasts with young men in the same 16 to 24-year-old age band of whom 22 per cent reported having sex when they were younger than 16 – a similar proportion to those aged 25 to 69.

However, a substantial proportion of young people aged 16 to 24 report that they have never had sex – 26 per cent of young women and 32 per cent of young men.

In contrast, one in ten 16-24-year-olds – both men and women - reported they had had ten or more sexual partners.

The findings come from the Health Survey for England 2010 (HSE) which is published each year and provides new information unavailable from other sources on a range of health-related issues.

The HSE in 2010 is the first to look at matters relating to sexual behaviour. Its findings suggest sexual behaviour has changed over the generations, with the percentage of women who reported they first had sex below the age of 16 increasing over generations. This trend is less clear in men.

Overall, the report, which looks at self-reported behaviour in men and women between the ages of 16 and 69, which could be affected by under- or over-reporting, shows:


  • The median age at which both men and women reported that they became sexually active was 17.
  • 17 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women reported that they have had only one sexual partner
  • Men reported a mean of 9.3 female sexual partners in their life so far, while women reported a mean of 4.7 sexual partners
  • 27 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women reported having had ten sexual partners or more
  • Of those aged 16 to 69 who reported ever having heterosexual or homosexual sex, women were more likely than men to report ever having a doctor-diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) (12 per cent and nine per cent respectively). However, similar proportions of men and women reported having had more than one STI (two per cent of each sex).

This year's HSE also covered a wide range of other health issues including obesity, dental health, kidney disease, well-being and respiratory health. Its findings in 2010 showed:

On obesity

  • More than a quarter of adults were obese (26 per cent of both sexes) in 2010. In total, 68 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women were overweight or obese.
  • The prevalence of obesity increased from 13 per cent in 1993 to 26 per cent in 2010 among men, and from 16 per cent to 26 per cent among women. While the rate of increase in obesity was slower in the second half of the period, in 2010 obesity was at its highest level since the time series began in 1993, and in men the 2010 level was also significantly higher than in the period between 2000 and 2005.

On dental health

  • 94 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women still had some of their natural teeth. Younger adults were more likely to have retained some teeth, with between 97 per cent and 99 per cent of those aged below 55 having some, depending on the age group. On kidney disease
  • 1.0 per cent of men and 1.3 per cent of women reported having doctor-diagnosed chronic kidney disease (CKD) in 2010. The prevalence of self-reported kidney disease increased with age, rising from less than 1 per cent among those aged 16-44 to 2.7 per cent in men aged 75 and over and 3.4 per cent among women in that age group.

On well-being

  • For both men and women, well-being increased with household income with men and women in the highest income households scoring more than five points higher, on a scale running from 14 to 70, than those in the lowest income households according to the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale. On respiratory conditions
  • The prevalence of lifetime doctor-diagnosed asthma was 16 per cent among men and 17 per cent among women, and was lower in the older age groups for both sexes.
  • 33 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women had a history of wheezing, while 18 per cent of both sexes reported wheezing in the last 12 months.

The NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said:

The Health Survey for England is an annual survey monitoring the health of the population and covers a wide range of health issues. This year's report covers many aspects of health and amongst its many interesting findings; it paints a picture of sexual behaviour which is changing over the generations with younger women tending to begin having sex younger.

“These findings will be of interest to the NHS in tackling matters such as sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptive services.”

The views expressed in the contents below are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of GovToday.

Add comment