Objectives: The AFRODITA study was designed to describe patterns relating to the number of lifetime sexual partners (SP) and age at first sexual intercourse (AFSI) by geographic region in a representative sample of Spanish women.
Study design: A representative sample of the female Spanish population was obtained using the Access Panel Technique. Postal questionnaires were sent to 11,086 women aged 18-70 years. Data were collected on AFSI, number of sexual partners, contraceptive methods, cervical cancer screening and socio-demographic characteristics.
Results: The average AFSI was 20.9 years. AFSI below the age of 19 years was reported by 30.8% of the women. Among sexually active women, 70.6% reported being monogamous and 6.4% reported > or = 5 lifetime sexual partners. Younger age at interview was strongly related to earlier AFSI and to higher number of lifetime sexual partners. Women younger than 25 were 39 times more likely to have an AFSI before age 18 than women over age 55. The percentage of women aged less than 25 reporting two or more sexual partners was four times higher than that of women 56 and older. In the multivariate analysis, having two or more sexual partners was independently associated with young age, early AFSI, having ever used oral contraceptives, living in an urban area, having had a screening Pap test in the last 3 years, having a sexually transmitted infection and nuliparity.
Conclusions: This study confirms important changes in the sexual behaviour of Spanish women. Younger cohorts show a younger age at sexual initiation and higher number of sexual partners. These are key factors that may induce changes in the human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence and the cervical cancer incidence in Spain.