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Number 12 (3/2003)

Sexual Behaviour and Attitudes in Finland, Estonia and Russia

Hannele Keckman-Koivuniemi    
10.11.2003

FSD has released two extensive national surveys on Finnish sexual habits and attitudes, collected in 1971 and 1992. The data can be used for longitudinal study or, using the data collected in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1996 and in Estonia in 2000, for comparisons across countries.

The first nationally representative survey on Finnish adults' sex life was conducted in 1971 by researchers Kai Sievers, Osmo Koskelainen and Kimmo Leppo. They followed the example of Hans Zetterberg, who had conducted a survey on adult sexual behaviour in Sweden in 1967. Zetterberg's study was the first representative survey on this subject in the world, the Finnish survey was the second.

Health, lifestyles and human relationships

In the 1971 survey the data were collected in two stages. Respondents were first interviewed by midwives and community health nurses. In the second stage, respondents filled out a self-administered questionnaire containing the more sensitive questions. The interviewer was present but could not see their answers. The number of respondents was 2152.

Topics covered respondents' illnesses and symptoms, smoking, alcohol use and sexual attitudes. The survey carried a set of attitudinal statements relating to homosexual behaviour, casual sex, women's right to take sexual initiative, sex without love, polygamy of men and monogamy of women, infidelity, use of pornography and sexual behaviour of young people.

One important theme pertained to relationships between men and women. Questions covered love, falling in love, first kiss, courtship, marriage and sexual life. Respondents were asked about their sexual intercourse, positions during intercourse and the number of sexual partners. Masturbation habits, reading pornography, women's orgasms and male impotence were studied.

In connection with the 1971 survey, a separate survey on fertility and family planning was conducted. Therefore, the sample of persons aged 18-44 included twice as many women as men. The data are weighed to compensate for the selection bias.

Human relations, sexual lifestyles and attitudes

In 1992 a new survey was conducted by Elina Haavio-Mannila and Osmo Kontula. The sample was randomly selected from the population register and included people aged 18-44 living in Finland. There were 2196 respondents. Again, respondents were interviewed first and then they filled out a self-administered questionnaire. The interviews were conducted by trained interviewers of Statistics Finland.

The 1992 survey was a nationally representative study on human relations, sexual attitudes and lifestyles. One third of the questions were repeats from the 1971 survey. New questions covered the sexual life of single persons, relationships with foreigners and colleagues, sexual advances and harassment, sexual minorities, impact of illnesses and medical treatments on sex life, sex education and sexual counselling received by adults in health care. Attitudes towards a number of sexual issues, the corresponding legislation, sexual problems, sexually transmitted diseases, infidelity and commercial sex were charted.

Social change and culture gap in Russia

The survey in St. Petersburg in 1996 formed a part of the research project Social Change and Cultural Gap. It was a joint project of the sociology and social policy departments of the University of Helsinki. Elina Haavio-Mannila was in charge of the project. The data were collected by the local Gallup. The number of respondents was 2078 and the sample was representative of the general population.

Each respondent was first interviewed face-to-face and after the interview they completed a self-administered questionnaire containing questions on their sexual life. Most questions in this survey were repeats from the Finnish 1992 survey. Questions covered family and sexual life, socio-demographic background, education, occupation, working community, economic situation, social networks, main activity, lifestyles, health and consumption.

Sexual behaviour in Estonia

The aim of the Estonia survey, conducted by Elina Haavio-Mannila in 2000, was to study the differences in sexual behaviour between the Russian and Estonian population living in Estonia. She also wanted to compare the sexual behaviour of people living in Estonia, Finland and Russia (St. Petersburg). The market research organization Emor carried out the Omnibus surveys, selecting a representative sample of Estonian residents aged 18-74. Interviewers brought the questionnaires to the respondents who completed them and returned them to Emor. There were 1031 respondents.

The Estonian questionnaire was shorter than the Finnish ones and repeated as many questions as possible from the St. Petersburg questionnaire.

FSD's web pages contain the study descriptions of these data sets in English. The titles and ID numbers of the data sets are:
FSD 1242 Finnish Sex Survey 1971
FSD 1243 Finnish Sex Survey 1992
FSD 1244 Estonian Sex Survey 2000
FSD 1245 St. Petersburg Sex Survey 1996
The data are available for scientific research and teaching.


More information

Haavio-Mannila, E., Kontula, O., & Kuusi, E . (2001). Trends in sexual life measured by national sex surveys in Finland in 1971, 1992 and 1999, and a comparison to a sex survey in St. Petersburg in 1996 (Working Papers E 10/2001). Helsinki: The Family Federation of Finland, The Population Research Institute.
Haavio-Mannila, E., & Purhonen, S. (2001). Slimness and self-rated sexual attractiveness: Comparisons of men and women in two cultures. The Journal of Sex Research, 38, 102-110.
Haavio-Mannila, E., & Rotkirch, A. (1998). Generational and gender differences in sexual life in St. Petersburg and urban Finland. Yearbook of Population Research in Finland XXXIV 1997 (pp. 133-160). Helsinki: The Family Federation of Finland, The Population Research Institute.
Kontula, O., & Haavio-Mannila, E. (1995). Sexual pleasures: Enhancement of sex life in Finland, 1971-1992. Aldershot, Hampshire: Dartmouth

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