NEWS27 March 2019

Natsal funding fixed for fourth wave

Healthcare News Public Sector Trends UK

UK – The world’s largest study of sexual behaviour, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), has started its latest wave with funding agreed from a number of bodies including the Wellcome Trust.

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The survey of sexual health and wellbeing in Britain is led by researchers from UCL along with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Glasgow and NatCen Social Research.

Funding is coming from Wellcome Trust’s new Longitudinal Population Studies Strategy, reflecting Wellcome’s long-standing support for Natsal since its inception. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation are also contributing.

The previous three Natsal surveys have taken place at the start of each decade since 1990, and the new wave of data collection (Natsal-4 ) is due to begin in 2021. Development work will start in May this year, to ensure that the questions asked, and the data collected are ‘fit for purpose’ in 2021.

People are randomly selected, based on their postcodes, and invited to participate. For the 2021 survey, interviewers will collect information from nearly 10,000 people aged 15- to 59-years-old using computerised questionnaires to ensure privacy.

Dr Cath Mercer, co-principal investigator of the latest Natsal said: “Improving sexual health remains a key public health challenge in Britain. Last year there were over 420,000 new STI diagnoses in England alone, and teenage pregnancy rates, although reducing, remain among the highest in Europe. There is increasing awareness about sexual violence, but also the importance of a satisfying sex life for our general health and well-being.”

Natsal was first started in response to the emerging HIV epidemic in the 1980s and has provided the evidence-base for major sexual health interventions and monitoring their impact including the National Chlamydia Screening Programme; enhanced HIV testing; HPV vaccination; and the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.