Please Sign In or Create an account
Experience and Meaning of Genital Symptoms to People in Britain: Findings From the Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)

Experience and Meaning of Genital Symptoms to People in Britain: Findings From the Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)

Methods: This is a mixed methods study using data from Natsal-3, a probability sample survey of 15,162 men and women undertaken from 2010–2012, and 27 semi-structured interviews with Natsal-3 participants who reported experience of genital symptoms in the previous month but without use of sexual health clinics. We used complex survey analyses to estimate the prevalence of recent STI associated symptoms and undertook qualitative interviews to explore individual and societal conceptualisations and perceptions of experiencing symptoms.

Results: Among 8923 sexually-experienced men and women, the reported prevalence of recent STI-associated symptoms was 19.7% (95%CI: 18.5%–20.9%) for women and 5.1% (95%CI: 4.4%–6.0%) for men. Symptom experience and perceived severity decreased with age for both women and men and interpretation was highly context specific with individuals drawing on recent sexual and other experiences to understand symptoms. The mean number of symptoms among those who experienced them was 1.6 for women and 1.1 for men. Pain on urinating was the most commonly reported symptom with a prevalence of 3.2% (95%CI: 2.9%–3.6%) for women and 1.2% (95%CI: 0.9%–1.5%) for men. Symptoms were predominantly independent of each other. Women were more likely than men to normalise symptoms, perceiving them as part of bodily fluctuations or temporary and insignificant deviations in health.

Conclusions: Genital symptomatic experience differs among women and men. Normalisation of symptoms presents a potential public health issue if STI symptoms are not recognised and treated effectively. Further exploration of the context in which symptoms occur is needed to better understand symptomatic STIs.

Speakers: Fiona Mapp
Conference: WAS Singapore 2015