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Primary Care

Sexual function problems and help seeking behaviour in Britain: national probability sample survey

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 21 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:426
  1. Catherine H Mercer, research fellow (,
  2. Kevin A Fenton, consultant epidemiologist2,
  3. Anne M Johnson, professor1,
  4. Kaye Wellings, director3,
  5. Wendy Macdowall, research fellow3,
  6. Sally McManus, senior researcher4,
  7. Kiran Nanchahal, medical statistician3,
  8. Bob Erens, health research group director4
  1. 1Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences and Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London WC1E 6AU
  2. 2HIV/STI Division, Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, Health Protection Agency, London NW9 5EQ
  3. 3Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health Research, School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  4. 4National Centre for Social Research, London EC1V 0AX
  1. Correspondence to: C H Mercer
  • Accepted 7 July 2003


The need for estimates of the extent of sexual function problems in the general population has become more urgent given recent debates surrounding the identification and definition of “sexual dysfunction,” the increased availability of pharmacological interventions, and possible changes in our expectations of what constitutes sexual function and fulfilment.1 We report results from the national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles (Natsal 2000).

Participants, methods, and results

Natsal 2000 was a stratified probability sample survey done between May 1999 and February 2001 of 11 161 men and women aged 16-44 years resident in Britain.2 3 The response rate was 65.4%. A computer assisted self interview asked participants about their sexual lifestyles and attitudes. We asked questions about their experience of sexual problems based on those used in the US national health and social life survey,4 which measured the main dimensions of sexual dysfunction, …

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