Natsal: Study information leaflet for participants

What is the study about?

This is a study on health and relationships in Britain and is one of the largest studies of its kind in the world. The study is sometimes also called Natsal – the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

It has taken place every 10 years since 1990 and the findings have been widely used by doctors, health service providers, policy makers and scientists to help plan NHS services and health education programmes.

The last survey was in 2010, and we now need updated information to understand how attitudes and lifestyles have changed.

What does the study cover?

The Natsal study has questions about relationships, experiences and attitudes towards topics relating to sex. Some of these are sensitive in nature, and you don’t have to answer questions you don’t want to. You can take part no matter what your background or experience is. We also ask some other details such as age, gender and employment. If you agree, at the end of the questionnaire the interviewer will ask if you are willing to provide a sample of urine or vaginal swabs. The interviewer will explain what the sample will be used for, answer any questions you may have and ask for permission to provide a sample. You are completely free to choose not to give a sample.

We would also like to link your survey answers to your health, education and other administrative records. We will ask for separate permission to do this in the study and give you more information about it then.

Who is carrying out the research?

This study is being carried out by NatCen Social Research (NatCen), University College London (UCL), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Glasgow.

Why have you chosen my household?

It is important that our surveys reflect life in Britain today, so we have selected a random sample of addresses from the Postcode Address File from across the country to invite to take part. One person at each address is randomly selected and asked to take part in the study so that we interview different sorts of people. We cannot change the person who has been selected as we need to make sure our sample is as representative of the general population as possible.

Do I have to take part?

Taking part is voluntary and if you do decide to take part, you can choose to answer as many or as few questions as you like. You can withdraw your consent at any point in time by contacting NatCen Social Research using the details overleaf. We will remove data about you, including data that is personally identifiable (e.g. contains information such as your name, address), but we will not remove data from de-personalised datasets.

How long will the study take?

This varies from person to person. For most people, this will take around an hour. The interviewer will discuss this with you and arrange an appointment to carry out the interview at a time that suits you.

How will the study take place?

An interviewer will conduct the study either face-to-face or by telephone, depending on government guidelines and your preference. The interviewer will ask you to complete the more personal questions by yourself, by handing over the laptop to you (if you are interviewed face-to-face) or by directing you to the questions online (if you are interviewed by telephone). The laptops and online questions are very easy to use and there are practice questions for you before you start. If you have any concerns, please speak to the interviewer.

What will I get out of doing the study?

We hope that you will enjoy taking part in the study, and as a thank you for taking part we will offer a £20 gift card. An additional £5 gift card will be given to everyone who provides a sample of urine or vaginal swabs.

Is the survey confidential?

Yes. Any information given will be treated in confidence and we will handle your data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The survey findings will be anonymised and nothing we publish will identify you or your household. For the most personal questions, we will ask you to directly answer on the laptop or online so the interviewer will not know your answers. You can read the study’s Privacy Notice here.

Occasionally, people might tell us things that raise concerns about their safety or the safety of others. If this happens, we may need to investigate this further as part of our ethical duty.

Who has reviewed the study?

The study has been reviewed by an independent group of people called a Research Ethics Committee, to protect your safety, rights, wellbeing and dignity. This study has been given ethical approval by the East Midlands - Leicester South Research Ethics Committee (Reference no. 20/EM/0025).

What if I have any questions?

We hope this leaflet answers the questions you may have, and that it shows the importance of the study. You can contact NatCen Social Research by writing to 35 Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0AX; calling on freephone 0800 652 4568 or emailing