Frequently Asked Questions about the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior
As researchers from a range of disciplines (public health, medicine, psychology, gender studies, family studies, anthropology, sociology), we ask questions about a variety of topics related to human sexuality. The manuscripts we have published to date from the NSSHB have utilized our unique U.S. nationally representative probability survey data to address topics such as:
- the diverse range of sexual behaviors in which people engage during solo and partnered sex
- condom use patterns among adolescents and adults
- how behaviors such as kissing, cuddling, and massage are related to sexual pleasure, sexual arousal, emotional intimacy, and other sexual behaviors
- similarities and differences in patterns of sexual behavior among heterosexual, bisexual, and gay adults
- the intersection of people’s sexual identities, attractions, and behaviors
- attitudes toward bisexual women and men among heterosexual, gay/lesbian, and other-identified individuals
- dual contraceptive use and, specifically, the dual use of condoms and hormonal contraceptive methods
- knowledge of sexual transmission of Zika
- relationship structures (monogamy, open relationships, consensual non-monogamy, supposed monogamy, and so on)
- the use of sexual enhancement products such as lubricants, vibrators, and condoms
- and much more!
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The NSSHB sample size varies each year depending on our goals and topics of interest; each wave typically includes between 3000 and 6000 people surveyed. In total, more than 20,000 people between the ages of 14 and 102 have participated in our research.
NSSHB Waves 1-7 were supported through an academic-corporate partnership between researchers at Indiana University and Church & Dwight Co., Inc., the makers of Trojan sexual health products. Scientific integrity is important to our partnership. Thus, the process we used for Waves 1-7 of the NSSHB was that the NSSHB team developed the survey items, analyzed the data, and independently wrote the scientific manuscripts, which were then submitted to scientific peer reviewed journals.
Yes! Key aspects of the NSSHB served as a basis for the National Study of Stigma and Sexual Health (NSASH), a prospective nationally representative study of gay and bisexual men living in the United States led by Drs. Brian Dodge (CSHP) and Mark Hatzenbuehler (Harvard University) (R01 MH112384).
Additionally, the expertise we developed as part of the NSSHB waves helped support the development of four additional US nationally representative surveys of sex in America led or co-led by Dr. Debby Herbenick (CHSP). Among these are the 2016 National Survey of Pornography, Relationships, and Sexual Socialization (which surveyed more than 3000 14-60 year olds; Co-PI Bryant Paul and Co-I Paul Wright), the OMGYES Sexual Pleasure Report: Women and Touch which surveyed 1,055 women ages 18 to 94, and the 2015 Sexual Exploration in America study, which surveyed 2,021 women and men ages 18 to 91.
Finally, some of our NSSHB items have been incorporated into national surveys in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Briefly put: outstanding! Americans from all walks of life have expressed interest in learning about contemporary sexuality and value the scientific thought that goes into using sound scientific methods to research sex and relationships.
The first series of publications from Wave1 of the NSSHB were released in Fall 2010 in a special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. We were told that the release of our initial findings resulted in more than one billion media impressions. NSSHB data were immediately included in articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, countless other newspapers and magazines, and on a variety of morning shows (e.g., Good Morning America, the Today Show) and late night talk shows. For the first year after publication, we were able to make the NSSHB data available for free download; more than 100,000 people downloaded our scientific manuscripts. While many were professionals, most cited personal interest as their reason for downloading the articles.
By now, NSSHB data have been cited in dozens of college-level and professional textbooks related to human sexuality, family studies, psychology, sociology, as well as marriage and family counseling. NSSHB data continue to be widely cited in most major women's and men's magazines, newsmagazine, and numerous blogs. The NSSHB has even been the focus of an episode of Discovery's Curiosity series.
In 2018, the NSSHB research team was honored to receive Indiana University's Outstanding Faculty Collaborative Research Award, jointly offered by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
"These data are important for keeping the nation moving forward in the area of sexual health and well being. In the absence of scientific data available to construct an accurate and up-to-date view, opinions in the field of sexual science can vary widely from person to person. Without current data, it is impossible to make sound recommendations concerning sexual behavior to medical personnel, educators, and others who need to make decisions in this area. These papers offer tools we need to improve the health and decrease the dysfunction we have in the area of sexual behavior."
– M. Joycelyn Elders, MD, Former Surgeon General of the United States, Journal of Sexual Medicine; J Sex Med 2010;7(suppl 5):248-249
"It was with great interest and anticipation that I read the reports from the team at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. A comprehensive study of sexual and sexual health- related behaviors in the United States hasn't been conducted in almost two decades—far too long. The data and insights from this new research will guide future thoughts, plans, research, and ultimately, education and advocacy efforts in the field of sexual health."
– Lynn Barclay, President and CEO, American Social Health Association, Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010, DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02056.x
"The [NSSHB] papers present long overdue data from the United States that provide an excellent opportunity to assess critically the impact of our efforts to improve sexual and reproductive health over the past two decades....Especially important, the studies provide updated population-based estimates on infrequently examined subgroups, for example those aged over 65 years, or infrequently reported sexual practices... These insights allow us to re-conceptualize and design approaches and policies to improve sexual health based upon contemporary realities and contexts, rather than received beliefs or ideol-ogy. Ultimately, these data challenge us to recon-sider the nature of the "prevention toolkit" and urge a critical rethinking of its content."
– Kevin Fenton, CDC. See: http://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(15)33216-1/fulltext
"The report was welcomed by health providers and sex educators, who say the field has had little data to go on, even as monumental social changes — the gay rights movement, increases in cohabitation, later marriage and childbearing, the AIDS epidemic and the widespread use of drugs for erectile dysfunction among others — have transformed sexual attitudes. Government agencies and private foundations are reluctant to pay for studies of sexual behavior that do not focus on reproduction, experts say; the last broad sex survey, the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, was started under a governmental contract, but Congress cut off financing and it was completed with support from private sources."
– Roni Rabin, October 4, 2010, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/health/04sex.html
"The most comprehensive survey of its kind in nearly two decades and the first to include teenagers." – TIME magazine
“...one of the most comprehensive surveys of sexual behavior ever conducted, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Since the release of the study's initial findings in a special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine in early October, there's been a firestorm of media publicity surrounding the results."
– LasVegas Weekly https://lasvegasweekly.com/as-we-see-it/2010/nov/17/sex-research-alive-and-going-well-even-if-actual-s/