National Health and Social Life Survey, Biology 203
- How was the NHSLS study designed to make its sample population representative of the U.S. population? (Participants were chosen randomly; the population interviewed for the NHSLS was closely matched to the U.S. population for gender, age, education, marital status, and racial/ethnic distribution.)
- What are the limitations of the NHSLS study? (Participants had to speak English, be between the ages of 18 and 59, and have a home.)
According to the results of the NHSLS:
- Who are our sexual partners? (People tend to choose people similar to themselves as sexual partners, with respect to race, education, religion, and age. Of these, the one least frequently shared is religion.)
- Where do we find our sexual partners? (People are most frequently introduced to their sexual partners by people they know, such as family or mutual friends. They meet their sexual partners at work, in school, in church, in gyms, or at private parties, where there are people they know.)
- When do we start having sex? (The mean age at the time of first intercourse has decreased somewhat.
For people born between ‘33 and ‘42, it ranged between 17 and 19; for those born between ‘63 and ‘67, it was between 17-18, except for black males, for whom it was 15 1/2. More than 50% of black males had had intercourse by the time they were 15, black females by about 16 1/4, white males by about 17, white females by about 17 1/2, Hispanic males by about 16, and Hispanic females by about 17 3/4.
- Why do we start having sex?
||First act of intercourse wanted
||First act not wanted, but not forced
|Curiosity, readiness for sex
- How likely was people’s first sexual partnership to be marriage? (Less likely for younger people--34% for men born between ‘63 and ‘67 and 35% for women. More likely for older people--84% for men born between ‘33 and ‘42 and 94% for women.)
- How many partners did people report for the past 12 months? (If married, 94% reported having only 1 sexual partner. If cohabiting, 75-80% reported only one partner. Of nonmarried, noncohabiting people, 25% reported no sexual partners, 38% reported one, 28% reported 2-4, and 9% reported more than 5.)
- How frequently do we have sex? (The critical factor determining how often people have sex is being part of a couple. No group reported more than a modest frequency of sexual activity. Married people reported having sex most frequently. These numbers were similar for all racial and ethnic groups. The only factors related to frequency of sex were (1) age (age 20 most, younger and older less), (2) being married or cohabiting, and (3) length of relationship. Race, religion, and educational level were not related. About 1/3 had sex more that 2x/week, about 1/3 a few times/month, and about 1/3 a few times a year or not at all.
- How sexually satisfied are we with our sexual partner? (Married people reported the most sexual satisfaction with their partners; nonmarried, noncohabiting people reported the least satisfaction.)
|Always have orgasm?
- Practices and preferences: What do people do when they have sex?
- Younger people report spending more time on sex than older people.
- Single people report spending more time on sex than married people.
- Oral sex is more common among younger people, better educated people, whites; less common among older people, less educated, blacks.
- Only vaginal intercourse has universal appeal for younger and older men and women.
- Watching partner undress ranks a distant second; receiving (more than giving) oral sex third. Other sexual practices have comparatively small numbers who find them very or somewhat appealing.
- Sex with strangers was more appealing to men than women.
- What information does the NHSLS provide about sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS/condom use in the U.S.?
- One of 6 people surveyed had had one of the diseases we discussed or hepatitis B. This is probably an underestimate, since not all who had one would know it.
- Men were about twice as likely as women to report having had gonorrhea. Women were about twice as likely (2X) as men to report having had genital warts, 2 1/2X for chlamydia, 3X for herpes.
- It is twice as easy for men to infect women with any STD as for women to infect men.
- The number of infections increases as the number of sexual partners increases, especially for unprotected sex.
- Race, educational level and exposure to sex education didn’t have as much influence as # partners.
- Spreads poorly compared to other STD’s (chance of infecting partner in 1 act of unprotected intercourse: AIDS 1/500, gonorrhea 1/2, syphilis 1/5).
- Of 3159 people surveyed, they expected to find 1 person with AIDS and 1 or 2 HIV-infected; actually found 5 total.
- About 27% of people surveyed reported having been tested for HIV; younger people, those more educated, those living in larger cities, and those who had had more sex partners were more likely to have been tested.
- Overall, about 30% reported having changed their sexual behavior because of AIDS (esp. younger, larger city residents). Age and income had no influence on this. 46% of blacks, 37% of Hispanics, and 26% of whites had changed their behavior. 12% of married people, 40% cohabiting, and 32% noncohabiting had changed their behavior. 20% of people with one sexual partner, 68% with two to four partners, and 76% with more than 5 partners had changed their behavior.
- Researchers in the NHSLS were convinced that the social groups we belong to strongly influence the choices we make regarding sexual behavior. That is, our sexual behavior is shaped largely by our social surroundings, rather than exclusively originating within each individual.
- The NHSLS found that overall 22% of women reported being forced to do something sexual (nearly all by someone they knew well, only 4% strangers) and 2% of men.
- What information does the NHSLS provide about homosexuality in the U.S.? (The NHSLS collected information about homosexuality defined by three different criteria: behavior, desire, and self-identification. About 10.1% of men and 8.6% of women reported being homosexual by any one of these criteria. By self-identification alone, 2% of men and 0% of women reported being homosexual. 44% of men and 59% of women reported feeling homosexual desire. Men were somewhat more likely to act on their desire for other men than were women for other women.)