Men who have sex with men in Great Britain: comparing methods and estimates from probability and convenience sample surveys
Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2016, 92:455-463 (doi:10.1136/sextrans-2015-052389).
Authors: 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
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.
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