What is Natsal?


Why is Natsal so special?

The National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles – or ‘Natsal’ for short, are sex surveys that have taken place every 10 years since 1990.

So far, over 46,000 people have taken part in Natsal, each randomly-selected from across Britain.

This is what makes Natsal special. Unlike sex surveys that you might see in magazines, Natsal is designed so that the resulting data are broadly representative of the general population. By this we mean that the characteristics of respondents will be similar to that of the general population in terms of their age, sex and where in Britain they live.

Why is Natsal needed?

Reliable information about sexual behaviour and sexual health is essential for creating and evaluating effective public health policies and interventions. Natsal has therefore been vital for providing evidence on sex, from when it first began in response to the emergence of HIV/AIDS.

Since then, Natsal’s findings have guided policy on services and interventions (such as chlamydia screening, as well as sex and relationships education) to help improve sexual health in Britain.

By combining data from each round of Natsal, it provides a comprehensive picture of sexual health in Britain and shows how this has changed over time and across generations.

How does Natsal get data on sex?

Each round of Natsal has involved people taking part in a private interview led by a highly-trained interviewer. The interview includes a self-completion questionnaire for the most sensitive questions, such as those on sexual practices and numbers of sexual partners. Typically, the whole interview takes around 50 minutes to complete.

Since the second Natsal survey carried out at the start of the millennium (2000), survey answers have been combined with information from biological samples that participants are asked to provide (e.g. a urine sample to test for sexually transmitted infections) and routinely-collected data (e.g. the Index of Multiple Deprivation) to enhance the amount and kinds of data that the Natsal study collates. 


Do you really know what counts as sex?

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