More than half of Brits refuse to talk about sex with their partner or friends – the highest figure in 12 European countries – new research reveals.

This is among the revealing attitudes towards sex uncovered in research by pharmaceutical manufacturer Thornton & Ross (T&R) in the run-up to World Contraception Day this week.

T&R’s parent company STADA conducted research* into attitudes towards sex, contraception and sexual health across 12 European countries as part of its 2020 Health Report. In the UK, 2,010 people aged between 18 and 99 were questioned as part of 24,087 respondents across the different European countries.

It found that Brits were far more reluctant than average to discuss the topic of contraception. Just 24% would talk about their issues, compared with the 41% average. Similarly, just 16% of people in the UK would discuss sexually transmitted diseases – barely half of the survey average of 30% as the lowest total among all of the surveyed countries.

When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, we are a nation divided by our age on whether we’ve ever been tested. Across the UK as a whole, three in 10 have been checked at some point – but that figure masks the dramatic differences between age groups.

Over half of young people (aged 18-34) have been tested for STDs at some point, with one in five regularly being checked. This is far more than 34-49-year-olds, of whom only one in three have been tested at some point. This figure falls to just one in seven for those aged 50+.

Men are more likely to be regularly tested, with 11% getting checked often compared with just 7% of women.

Whereas more than half of Brits said they didn’t generally talk about sex at all, in–Serbia, where 80% said it was a regular a topic of conversation, followed by Spain (79%) and Poland (88%). This largely involved chatting about how often they had sex, rather than contraception or STDs.

The findings coincide with World Contraception Day, on September 26, that aims to draw attention to the variety of contraceptive methods available and to enable people across the globe to deal with their sexuality in an informed and responsible manner.

T&R’s vice-president for consumer healthcare, Mick Cox, commented: “The fact that Brits don’t feel comfortable talking about their sexual health is worrying. One positive trend, however, is that younger people are not only less inhibited when talking about sex, they are more inclined to be tested if they suspect they have sexually transmitted disease.”

T&R, part of the STADA Group, develops, manufactures and supplies a wide range of branded over-the-counter medicines, dermatological solutions and other healthcare and hygiene products including KY Jelly®, Zoflora®, Hedrin® and Setlers® at its headquarters in Huddersfield.