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Sexual behaviours and sexual health outcomes among young adults with limiting disabilities: findings from third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)

06 Jul 2018


To explore whether the sexual behaviours and sexual health outcomes of young adults with self-reported disabilities that they perceive limit their activities (‘limiting disability’) differ from those without disability.


Complex survey analyses of cross-sectional probability sample survey data collected between September 2010 and August 2012 using computer-assisted personal interviewing and computer-assisted self-interview.


British general population.


7435 women and men aged 17–34 years, resident in private households in Britain, interviewed for the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

Main outcome measures

Self-reported sexual behaviour and sexual health outcomes.


Approximately 1 in 10 participants reported having a limiting disability. Sexual behaviours were similar between those with limiting disability and those without, with a few exceptions. Women and men with limiting disability were less likely to report having sexual partner(s) (past year, adjusted ORs (AORs) for age and social class: AORs: 0.71, 0.75, respectively). Women with limiting disability were more likely to report having same-sex partner(s) in the past 5 years (AOR: 2.39). Differences were seen in sexual health outcomes, especially among women; those with limiting disability were more likely to report having experienced non-volitional sex (ever, AOR: 3.08), STI diagnoses (ever, AOR: 1.43) and sought help/advice regarding their sex life (past year, AOR: 1.56). Women with limiting disability were also more likely to feel distressed/worried about their sex life than those without limiting disability (AORs: 1.61). None of these associations were seen in men.


Young adults with limiting disability, especially women, are more likely to report adverse sexual health outcomes than those without, despite comparatively few behavioural differences. It is important to ensure that people with disabilities are included in sexual health promotion and service planning, and targeted policy and programme interventions are needed to address negative sexual health outcomes disproportionally experienced by people with disabilities.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open