Less Than Half of Sexually Active U.S. College Students Use Condoms, Survey Says
Less than half of U.S. college students always use condoms during sex, and almost one-fourth never use condoms, according to a survey in the December issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Reuters Health reports that more than 8,500 undergraduate students were surveyed about their sexual health behavior as part of the 1997 College Alcohol Study. Although 71% of students surveyed identified themselves as sexually experienced, only 43% said they always used condoms during sex and 24% said they never used condoms. Students who lived off-campus and those more than 23-years-old were least likely to use condoms, perhaps because they were "more likely to be involved in steady relationships and use other forms of birth control than the traditional 18- to 22-year-old, dorm-living college student," author Dr. Marla Eisenberg, who was at the Harvard School of Public Health at the time of the study, said. She noted that the study only reflects condom usage and not "safe sex" practice overall because it does not take into account other methods of contraception and STD prevention. Men with higher numbers of partners also reported less frequent condom use, a "potentially risky combination," Reuters Health reports. The survey -- which for the first time asked students if they had had a sexual experience with a member of the same sex, opposite sex, or both, instead of asking them to identify themselves as gay, heterosexual or bisexual -- found that men who only had sex with other men were less likely to use condoms than their heterosexual peers. Eisenberg said, "The social norms around condom use among gay men have changed considerably in the wake of new treatment for HIV/AIDS. And the energy previously placed on promoting condom use in this population has fallen somewhat now that fewer friends and lovers are dying of the disease" (Reuters Health, 11/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.