There is widespread concern about the sexual ‘vulnerability’ of young people with intellectual disabilities, but little evidence relating to sexual activity and sexual health.
This paper describes a secondary analysis of the nationally representative longitudinal Next Steps study (formerly the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England), investigating sexual activity and sexual health amongst young people with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities. This analysis investigated family socio-economic position, young person socio-economic position, household composition, area deprivation, peer victimisation, friendships, sexual activity, unsafe sex, STIs, pregnancy outcomes and parenting.
Most young people with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities have had sexual intercourse by age 19/20, although young women were less likely to have sex prior to 16 than their peers and both men and women with intellectual disabilities were more likely to have unsafe sex 50% or more of the time than their peers. Women with intellectual disabilities were likely to have been pregnant and more likely to be a mother.
Most young people with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities have sex and are more likely to have unsafe sex than their peers. Education and health services need to operate on the assumption that most young people with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities will have sex.