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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Sexual risk taking behaviour: prevalence and associated factors. A population-based study of 22 000 Danish men

Nina Buttmann1, Ann Nielsen1, Christian Munk1, Kai L Liaw2 and Susanne K Kjaer13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Viruses, Hormones and Cancer, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

2 Merck Research Laboratories, North Wales, Pennsylvania, USA

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:764  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-764

Published: 5 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Sexual habits and risky sexual behaviour strongly affect public health. Available data indicate that sexually transmitted infections are increasing in many EU countries. Changes in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted diseases across Europe are among other factors suggested to be driven by changes in sexual behaviour patterns. The purpose of our study is to assess the occurrence of risky behaviour in men aged 18-45 years from the general population. Furthermore, we aim to examine factors associated with risky sexual behaviour.

Methods

A random sample of 33 000 Danish men (18-45 years) was selected from the general population. The participants (participation-rate: 71.0%) received a self-administered questionnaire which could be returned in a paper-based version or as a web-based questionnaire. Non-respondents were subsequently asked to participate in a telephone interview with the same questions as in the paper- or web-based questionnaire. We defined risky sexual behaviour as > 8 lifetime sexual partners, ≥2 new sexual partners in the past 6 months and intercourse with a commercial sex worker.

Results

The Danish men reported having had sexual intercourse with a median of 8 female partners during their lifetime and 9.8% of the men have had ≥2 new sexual partners in the past 6 months. Sexual intercourse with a commercial sex worker was reported by 11.3% of the men. Furthermore, men reporting > 8 lifetime partners or ≥2 recent sex partners were more likely to have other risk taking behaviours such as early sexual debut, current smoking and regular binge drinking. A similar pattern was seen in men who had sex with a commercial sex worker.

Conclusions

Our results show that a high proportion of Danish men have had sexual contact with a large number of partners, and risky sexual behaviour is closely related to other risk-taking behaviours such as smoking and binge drinking.