Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

First Major Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships Launched.

16 October 2006

The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships (ISSHR)”, the first major report of its kind in this country, was launched today by the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD. The research was led by Professor Hannah McGee, Division of Population Health Sciences at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Dr Richard Layte, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). Commissioned by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and the Department of Health and Children, the study publishes key findings on Irish sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.

Pictured at the launch of the Irish Study of Sexual Health & Relationships (ISSHR), from left, were Dr Richard Layte (ESRI) and Professor Hannah McGee (RCSI) (Study Principal Investigators), Ms Olive Breaden (Chair, Crisis Pregnancy Agency), Ms Mary Harney (Minister for Health & Children), Ms Caroline Spillane (Chief Executive, CPA), Dr Stephanie O’Keefe (Research Manager, CPA) and Dr Nazih Eldin (Health Services Executive).

The study surveyed 7,441 adults, aged 18 to 64. Topics covered included sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviours; attraction, sexual identity and sexual experience; heterosexual intercourse, partnerships and practice; homosexual partnerships and practices; risk-reduction practices and experience of crisis pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

One of the most significant findings in the study was that over 90% of people supported sex education for young people on each of the following subjects: sexual intercourse, sexual feelings, contraception, safer sex and homosexuality. 90% of people thought that sex education should be provided at school and 80% said that it should be provided in the home. 53% of men and 60% women have received some sex education at home or in school. The highest recipients are those aged 18-24, with 88% of men and 93% of women having received sex education, compared to 49% of men and 59% of women in the 35-44 age group and 12% of men and 19% of women in the 55-64 age group.

Professor Hannah McGee said "We were pleased to have the opportunity to conduct such a challenging and extensive study. It builds on previous work by RCSI and partners ESRI in this area - the Irish Contraception & Crisis Pregnancy Study(ICCP) in 2004 and the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) study in 2001. As a body of work, this and the previous reports provide a much-needed evidence base for policymakers and service providers in important areas of health which have been heretofore neglected."

Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD said “The National AIDS Strategy Committee (NASC) recommended that a national survey be undertaken of sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in Ireland. Such a survey is in line with research in other European countries. Its purpose is to provide useful information on attitudes and behaviours and to provide a benchmark for evaluating the impact of our policies and practices in relation to HIV and other STIs and in relation to our overall sexual health.”

To view the study in full, please go to