The rates of premature death and disability attributable to sexual behaviour in the United States are triple those of other wealthy nations, suggests research in Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Women are most severely affected, finds the study.
The researchers, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, assessed the extent of the public health burden in the US attributable to sexual behaviour for the year 1998.
They referred to national data on sexual health and reproduction, surveillance systems for infectious disease, hospital and outpatient statistics, birth and death records, and published research.
This information was used to calculate adverse health consequences, premature deaths, and "disability adjusted life years" or DALYs - a composite figure indicating years of life cut short by premature death and loss of healthy years of life as a result of disability.
The results showed that sexual behaviour accounted for around 20 million adverse health consequences - equivalent to over 7,500 per 100,000 people - in 1998. These included infections, infertility, and abortions. And it accounted for almost 30,000 deaths - just over 1% of the total for that year.
The authors calculated that over 2 million DALYs were attributable to sexual behaviour. This equals over 6% of the national total and adds up to three times the levels of other wealthy nations.
Almost two thirds (62%) of the adverse health consequences were borne by women, who were also most affected by disability (57%).
Proportionately more men than women died (66%), but the authors point out that if HIV/AIDS is taken out of the equation, then 80% of the deaths attributed to sexual behaviour would have been among women.
Cervical cancer and HIV infection were the leading causes of death among women; HIV was the single most important cause of death among men.
Dr Shahul Ebrahim, National Centers for HIV/AIDS, STD, TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Tel: +1 404 498 3948/ 404 509 1367
Email: [email protected]
Click here to view the paper in full