Risky sex behaviours among college students: The psychosocial profile

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Risky sex behaviours among college students are a growing public health concern. However, few studies have profiled these behaviours using a large range of psychosocial correlates.


Participants were 6874 undergraduate and postgraduate students (64.7% female, age range 17–25 years, M = 20.43 years, SD = 1.86 years) drawn from 13 higher-level institutions in Ireland.


Regarding prevalence, 75% of the sample report that they have been, or are currently sexually active. Of this sexually active cohort (n = 5111), 27.2% report early sexual initiation, 29.5% report 5 or more lifetime sexual partners and 12.1% report 2 or more sexual partners in the past 3 months. In addition, 47.7% of students report inconsistent condom use and 39.5% report inconsistent use of other contraceptive methods in the past 3 months. Using multivariate logistic regression analyses, significant correlates of risky sex behaviour are identified across 5 groups of psychosocial predictors (demographic, sexuality and relationships, substance use, mental well-being and personal resources). Differences between males and females and between different sexual orientations are highlighted.


Suggestions are made for sexual education and intervention programs to specifically target subgroups of the student population.

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