Sex in Ireland in the last decade: sexual health research and its policy implications

There has been significant investment in sexual health research in Ireland over the last decade. Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have been involved in the three national, cross-sectional, general sexual health surveys, involving 13,000 adults, that have been conducted in Ireland since 2003*. The first was The Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy (ICCP) Study 2003 (ICCP-2003)1, which was designed to establish nationally-representative data on current atti­tudes, knowledge and experience of contraception, crisis pregnancy and related services in Ireland. This was followed, in 2006, by The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships (ISSHR)2, which was designed to build a representative and reli­able picture of sex and sexual behaviour in Ireland, including levels of sexual knowledge. Most recently, The Irish Contracep­tion and Crisis Pregnancy Study 2010 (ICCP-2010)3, was a repeat of the earlier ICCP study, providing an important opportunity to explore trends over time.

This brief is based on a research project conducted in 2012 entitled: ‘Exploring trends in sexual activity, contraceptive use, and pregnancy experiences in Ireland: a secondary analysis of national survey data from the last decade’ which was designed to review the state of current knowledge in the area of sexual health, with the aim of informing policy and identifying future research directions. Four main research questions were explored:

  1. Who is talking to their children about sex?
  2. Does sex education have an impact on age and contraception use at first sex?
  3. Who has experienced a crisis pregnancy in Ireland?
  4. Who has ever had an STI and/or HIV test?

Suitable participants and variables across datasets were identified and extracted for analysis. All participants were younger adults aged 18-45 years. Further methodological details are available on request from

*RCSI also completed a separate, related national survey of sexual violence in 2001 (SAVI: Sexual Abuse & Violence in Ireland)4