Background

The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) are among the largest and most detailed studies of sexual behaviour to have been undertaken anywhere in the world. Their data have been used extensively to improve understanding of sexual behaviour and to guide sexual and reproductive health policy and practice.

To date, the Natsal studies have taken place every 10 years, involving large representative surveys that collect data on the sexual behaviours, attitudes, and lifestyles of people living in Britain.

  • Natsal-1 (1990-1991) interviewed 18,876 people aged 16-59 years.                                  
  • Natsal-2 (1999-2001) interviewed 12,110 people aged 16-44 years.                                
  • Natsal-3 (2010-2012) interviewed 15,162 people aged 16-74 years.                              
  • People are randomly selected, based on their postcodes, and invited to take part so  that the surveys represent the general population in Britain. They are interviewed  at home by trained interviewers, using a combination of computerised face-to-face and self-completion questions. The interview lasts just under an hour on average. Some participants are asked for biological samples e.g urine samples to test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).                                                                       
  • We are now planning a fourth Natsal survey, with interviews starting in 2021. We will interview around 10,000 people aged 15-59 years. By combining data with the previous surveys we will be able to provide a comprehensive picture of the sexual health of the nation and how this changed over time and across generations.                   
  • For more information about what’s planned for Natsal-4 click here.  

Consultation on the content of the Natsal-4 questionnaire

  • This table shows the topics covered in the previous Natsal surveys. The full Natsal-3 questionnaire can be found here. Note the questionnaire has filtering (‘routing’) which means that people are only asked the questions that are relevant to them. For example, someone who hasn’t had sexual experience would not be asked further questions about sexual behaviours.

For Natsal-4, we intend to include new questions on:

  • gender identity: a personal sense of your own gender, which may be the same or different to sex assigned at birth                                                                          
  • sexual wellbeing: a feeling of psychological wellbeing in relation to your sex life      
  • the use of technology in sexual lifestyles: including use of the internet and apps in meeting partners, accessing pornography, and accessing services and information about sex

To make room for these new questions, and others that are suggested during this consultation process, we will need to remove some existing topics from the questionnaire. This consultation will help us understand which questions should be prioritised, which need to be changed, and which can be removed. In general, we will keep questions the same as in previous surveys wherever possible so that Natsal can be used to look at change over time.

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