Men who have sex with men in Great Britain: Comparing methods and estimates from probability and convenience sample surveys

Philip Prah*, Ford Hickson, Chris Bonell, Lisa M. Mcdaid, Anne M. Johnson, Sonali Wayal, Soazig Clifton, Pam Sonnenberg, Anthony Nardone, Bob Erens, Andrew J. Copas, Julie Riddell, Peter Weatherburn, Catherine H. Mercer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To examine sociodemographic and behavioural differences between men who have sex with men (MSM) participating in recent UK convenience surveys and a national probability sample survey. Methods We compared 148 MSM aged 18-64 years interviewed for Britain's third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) undertaken in 2010-2012, with men in the same age range participating in contemporaneous convenience surveys of MSM: 15 500 British resident men in the European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS); 797 in the London Gay Men's Sexual Health Survey; and 1234 in Scotland's Gay Men's Sexual Health Survey. Analyses compared men reporting at least one male sexual partner (past year) on similarly worded questions and multivariable analyses accounted for sociodemographic differences between the surveys. Results MSM in convenience surveys were younger and better educated than MSM in Natsal-3, and a larger proportion identified as gay (85%-95% vs 62%). Partner numbers were higher and same-sex anal sex more common in convenience surveys. Unprotected anal intercourse was more commonly reported in EMIS. Compared with Natsal-3, MSM in convenience surveys were more likely to report gonorrhoea diagnoses and HIV testing (both past year). Differences between the samples were reduced when restricting analysis to gay-identifying MSM. Conclusions National probability surveys better reflect the population of MSM but are limited by their smaller samples of MSM. Convenience surveys recruit larger samples of MSM but tend to over-represent MSM identifying as gay and reporting more sexual risk behaviours. Because both sampling strategies have strengths and weaknesses, methods are needed to triangulate data from probability and convenience surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-463
Number of pages9
JournalSexually Transmitted Infections
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Natsal-3: Natsal-3 is a collaboration between University College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, NatCen social research, Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency) and the University of Manchester. The study was supported by grants from the Medical Research Council (G0701757); and the Wellcome Trust (084840); with contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council and Department of Health. EMIS: The EMIS project was funded by Executive Agency for Health and Consumers, EU Health Programme 2008-2013; CEEISCat-Centre d'Estudis Epidemiol-gics sobre les ITS/ HIV/SIDA de Catalunya; Terrence Higgins Trust (CHAPS) for Department of Health for England; Maastricht University; Regione del Veneto; Robert Koch Institute; BZgA (Bundeszentrale f?r gesundheitliche Aufklrung, K?ln); German Ministry of Health; Finnish Ministry of Health; Norwegian Institute of Public Health; Swedish Board of Health and Welfare. LondonGMSHS: This study was funded by Public Health England, Colindale, UK. Scotland GMSHS: The 2011 survey was funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) as part of the Sexual Health programme (MC-U130031238/MC-UU-12017/2) at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow and Health Protection Scotland. JR and LMM are funded by the MRC (MC-U130031238/MC-UU-12017/2/MC-UU-12017-11)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.




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