Ethnic variations in sexual activity and contraceptive use: national cross-sectional survey

Contraception. 2006 Sep;74(3):224-33. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2006.03.025. Epub 2006 May 12.


Objectives: Our objective was to compare data on contraceptive use in relation to reported sexual activity in women from different minority ethnic groups.

Design: We analyzed the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles 2000.

Subjects: Women aged 16-44 years, numbering 6932 and residing in Britain, participated in this study.

Main outcome measures: Our main outcome measures are as follows: percentage of women reporting sexual activity, use of contraception and type of contraception (hormonal, barrier or permanent methods).

Results: Overall, fewer women from the UK's four main ethnic minority groups reported recent sexual activity, compared with white women. Among sexually active women, contraceptive use was significantly lower in all ethnic minority groups than in white women, but this pattern differed according to marital status. In ever-married or cohabiting women, lower contraceptive use was reported by Indian (78%) and Pakistani women (74%) than by other groups. Among single women, black Caribbean (88%) and black African (82%) women reported using less contraception compared with white (95%) and Indian (100%) women. Women from all ethnic minority groups were less likely than white women to report using hormonal contraception and permanent methods and were more likely to use barrier methods. The differences between ethnic groups remained significant after adjusting for educational achievement and parity. Deprivation and acculturation did not account for the use of contraception or the type of contraceptive method used.

Conclusion: Sexually active married Pakistani and Indian women reported the lowest overall use of contraception. Among sexually active single women, black African and black Caribbean women reported levels of contraceptive use that were lower than those reported by white women. Sexually active women from all four minority ethnic groups were less likely than white women to use reliable methods of contraception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Caribbean Region / ethnology
  • Contraception / methods
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraceptive Devices
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / ethnology
  • Marital Status
  • Pakistan / ethnology
  • Religion
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology*
  • United Kingdom
  • White People


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal