Risk factors that influence sexual and reproductive health in Portuguese university students

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Abstract

Background

University students have unprotected sex and associate alcohol and/or drugs with sexual practices. These behaviours are risk factors for influencing sexual and reproductive health that can be targeted by nursing interventions.

Aim

The aim of this study was to determine the risk and protective factors influencing sexual and reproductive risk-taking behaviours in university students.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional and correlational study in a sample of 1946 students. Data were collected using a self-report questionnaire on the individual, environmental, cognitive and psychosocial factors related to knowledge of sexually transmitted infections, attitude for sexual and reproductive health, subjective norms, Condom Use Self-Efficacy and Sexual Sensation Seeking scales.

Results

Older male students were at higher risk for all risk behaviours studied. Students involved in committed relationships were at risk because of decreased condom use. Individuals who placed high importance on sexual sensation seeking were at increased risk. The higher the importance students placed on peers’ opinion, the more protective their behaviours were.

Conclusion

The results of this study showed that university students are exposed to sexual risks. Individual, cognitive and psychosocial factors influence the risk-taking behaviours.

Implications for nursing and health policy

The findings of this study should be further incorporated into health care with nurses’ leadership, adapting healthcare services to the specific needs of this population and promoting educational programmes.

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