Patterns of sexual mixing are major determinants of sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission, in particular the extent to which high-risk populations mix with low-risk populations. However, patterns of mixing in the general population are poorly understood. We analysed data from a national probability sample survey of households, the Health Survey for England 2010. A total of 943 heterosexual couples living together, where at least one partner was aged between 16-44 years, were included. We used correlation coefficients to measure the strength of similarities between partners with respect to demographic characteristics, general health, health behaviours and sexual history. Males were on average 2 years older than their female partners, although this age difference ranged from a median of 0 years in men aged 16-24 years to a median of 2 years in men aged 35-44 years. A positive correlation between partners was found for all demographic characteristics. With respect to general health and health behaviours, a strongly positive correlation was found between men and women in reporting alcohol consumption at ≥3 days a week and smoking. Men typically reported greater numbers of sexual partners than their female partner, although men and women with more partners were more likely to mix with each other. We have been able to elucidate the patterns of sexual mixing between men and women living together in England. Mixing based on demographic characteristics was more assortative than sexual characteristics. These data can better inform mathematical models of STI transmission.
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- health survey
- sexual mixing
- STI transmission