Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)


Sex and statistics: What probability surveys can (and can’t) tell us about a nation’s bedroom secrets

Thursday, 2016/02/11, 16:00

The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s somewhat legitimitised the scientific study of sexual behaviour. Since then, representative data on sexual behaviour have come to be recognised as essential for understanding and informing sexual health policy and practice beyond HIV/AIDS prevention. In Britain, we are fortunate to have had 3 decennial national probability sample surveys to date, the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles – or ‘Natsal‘ for short ( With data collected from >46,000 people since the first survey was undertaken in 1990, we are able to track the sexual lifestyles of successive British birth cohorts back to the 1930s and so consider both cohort and period effects. However, Natsal is far from perfect and while there is much that we can say about the nation’s bedroom secrets, there is much that we can not. My seminar will discuss these strengths and weaknesses, including reflecting on the methodological challenges that surveys like Natsal are increasingly facing, including declining survey response rates, and the difficulty of reaching population groups of greatest interest to epidemiologists.

Event organizer: ISPM Bern
Speaker: Dr Cath Mercer, Reader, Research Department of Infection & Population Health, University College London, UK
Date: 2016/02/11
Time: 16:00 Time
Locality: Seminarraum, Finkenhubelweg 11 (1st Floor)
ISPM Hauptgebäude
Finkenhubelweg 11
3012 Bern
Characteristics: open to the public
free of charge