It seems that a carefree attitude to safe sex is plaguing the sexual health of the nation’s young as new research from Mintel reveals just 72% of under-25’s believe it is important to have regular sexual health screening if you have casual relationships.

Mintel research indicates that young men are the most likely to adopt a relaxed attitude towards screening. Indeed, just two thirds (67%) of 18-24-year-old men agree that it is important to have regular sexual health screening if you have casual relationships, compared to 81% of Brits overall. Further highlighting an ‘act now and think later’ approach, 41% of 18-24-year-olds and 49% of 18-24-year-old men agree that it is only necessary to see a doctor if you have symptoms following unprotected sex, compared to 36% of consumers overall.

When it comes to finding out more about sexual health, currently 41% of Brits don’t feel they know enough about how to recognise the symptoms of some or all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and just 51% are comfortable with using a sexual health clinic. Furthermore, a striking one in five (19%) admit they would be too embarrassed to seek professional help if they had a STI/STD. Highlighting these testing times for sexual health, today, more than half of all Brits (56%) agree there is not enough education in schools on the importance of safe sex.

Lucy Cornford, Head of Beauty & Personal Care, Household, Lifestyles and Brand Research at Mintel, said:

“A lack of knowledge plagues the sexual health sector. Young adults, and young men in particular, display a worrying lack of concern over the dangers of unprotected sex and the consequences of not taking care of sexual health. The rapid growth of free dating apps has facilitated a culture of casual sexual encounters, particularly amongst adults under-35. Recent initiatives targeted at raising the profile of sexual health have focused on elements that aim to be a bit more fun, but still have a serious underlying message. By making the message on safe sex more accessible and relatable, young adults may be more likely to pay attention. However, there will always be a need to deal with sexual health problems, which could raise potential for more home testing kits that can be discretely acquired and used to avoid embarrassment, or even diagnostic devices for self-assessment.”

Additionally, Mintel research reveals that many young men view safe sex to be a female burden. Over one third (38%) of men aged 18-24 feel that sexual health is a greater concern for women than men, compared to a national average of 28%. Additionally, 35% of 18-24-year-old men think women should be responsible for contraception, which compares to an average of 28% of all Brits.

When it comes to contraceptive methods, the majority (55%) of adults agree that condoms are essential for safe sex. However, today, 30% of Brits who are not in a relationship but looking to meet someone always have sex without a condom, while 34% of the same group sometimes have sex without a condom. Furthermore, 25% believe it is sufficient to use the emergency contraceptive pill after having unprotected sex, rising to 41% of 18-24-year-old men.

“Our research reveals that there is definite scope for contraception brands to work with health authorities in order to help push the safe sex message. This has the potential to create a ‘triple-win’ situation, where public health messages are amplified by support from brands: the brands benefit from the moral kudos of supporting these messages and younger people benefit from an improvement in their often-patchy understanding of sexual health issues.” Lucy adds.

Finally, on a lighter note, Mintel answers the million-dollar question: how often do Brits have sex? One in five (20%) Brits self report that they have sex a few times a week, rising to 22% of men and declining to 18% of women. Just 3% of Brits claim to have sex every day, including 5% of men and 2% of women.

One in three (28%) 18-24-year-olds report that they have sex a few times a week, compared with 10% of 55+-year-olds who say they have sex at least a few times a week. Regionally, Londoners are the most enthusiastic, reflecting their younger age profile; indeed, more than one in 10 (11%) Londoners claim they have sex every day, followed by 4% in the North West.

“With younger males the most likely to say that they are having sex on a daily basis, this makes them a key demographic to target with sexual health advice, potentially even leveraging dating platforms to do so.” Lucy concludes.

Sample: 1,935 internet users aged 18+

*Usage of free dating sites and apps rises from 18% across adults as a whole to 23% of 18-24-year-olds and 27% of 25-34-year-olds.

Press copies of Mintel’s Sexual Health report and interviews with Lucy Cornford, Head of Beauty & Personal Care, Household and Lifestyles Research, are available on request from the press office.

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