Age- and Gender-Specific Estimates of Partnership Formation and Dissolution Rates in the Seattle Sex Survey

Sara J. Nelson*, James P. Hughes, Betsy Foxman, Sevgi O. Aral, King K. Holmes, Peter White, Matthew R. Golden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Partnership formation and dissolution rates are primary determinants of sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission dynamics. Methods: The authors used data on persons' lifetime sexual experiences from a 2003-2004 random digit dialing survey of Seattle residents aged 18-39 years (N = 1,194) to estimate age- and gender-specific partnership formation and dissolution rates. Partnership start and end dates were used to estimate participants' ages at the start of each partnership and partnership durations, and partnerships not enumerated in the survey were imputed. Results: Partnership formation peaked at age 19 at 0.9 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.76-1.04) partnerships per year and decreased to 0.1 to 0.2 after age 30 for women and peaked at age 20 at 1.4 (95% CI: 1.08-1.64) and declined to 0.5 after age 30 for men. Nearly one fourth (23.7%) of partnerships ended within 1 week and more than one half (51.2%) ended within 12 weeks. Most (63.5%) individuals 30 to 39 years of age had not formed a new sexual partnership in the past 3 years. Conclusion: A large proportion of the heterosexual population is no longer at substantial STI risk by their early 30s, but similar analyses among high-risk populations may give insight into reasons for the profound disparities in STI rates across populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-317
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by Public Health–Seattle & King County, the Center for Molecular and Clinical Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD. S.J.N. and M.R.G. are supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID R01 AI068107-01 ). S.J.N. is also supported by the University of Washington STD/AIDS Research Training Program ( T32 AI007140 ) from the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Public Health Service . P.J.W. thanks the UK Medical Research Council for funding.


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