Men and women, aged 17–24 years, were interviewed from 2010–2012 for third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in the UK. The authors examined how the source of information about sexual matters was associations with sexual behaviours and outcomes.
The study looked at the main source of information (school, a parent or other); age and circumstances of first heterosexual intercourse; unsafe sex and distress about sex in past year; experience of sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses. Women were also asked if they ever had non-volitional sex or an abortion.
The results, published in the BMJ, concluded that gaining information mainly from school was associated with reduction of a range of negative sexual health outcomes, particularly among women. These included, older age at first sex, less likelihood of unsafe sex and previous STI diagnosis. In all cases the effect was more significant for women.
Women were also more likely to be sexually competent at first sex and less likely to have non-volitional sex, abortion and distress about sex.
Gaining information mainly from a parent was associated with some of these, but fewer participants cited parents as a primary source.
The findings emphasise the benefit of school and parents providing information about sexual matters and argue for a stronger focus on the needs of men.