Correlates of sexual risk behaviour among young adults in two
University of East London, London, United Kingdom
Keywords: Sexual risk behaviour, contraception, young adults
Objectives: To describe what factors are correlated to
sexual risk behaviour (early sexual debut and non use of condoms) from a sample
of young adults aged 18 to 29 in two European cities in Portugal and the UK. To
assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices towards sexuality and sexual
health promotion in both samples and to compare the findings for both samples,
and relate to actual policies of sexual education and sexual health promotion;
Design and Methods:
A self-administered questionnaire was administered to a total of
136 male and female young adults aged between 18 and 29 years old in Portugal
(n=69) and in the UK (n=67). The questionnaire covered areas of sexual history,
contraception and relationships. Descriptive statistics and correlation tests (Pearson,
Spearman’s rho and Kendall’s tau) were applied to analyse the results.
Results: A percentage of 66.7 for Portugal and 74.6 for
the UK reported having had intercourse. Condoms were reported to be used by
about half of the sample, but despite being more discussed and better accepted
in Portugal (45.7%), they were slightly more used in the UK (48%). Also, 10.9%
of the Portuguese respondents against 4% of the UK participants declared never
having used a condom. Condom use is mostly reported within casual sex, and not
within relationships. The most significant correlate of sexual experience was
religiosity for the UK sample, and type of parental education for the Portuguese
sample. Non-experience of sexual intercourse and use of sexual health services
were also analysed. Lack of awareness and knowledge was identified in various
areas: contraception, sexual education and relationships.
Conclusions: This study provides data on sexual risk
behaviour in a sample of young adults. Descriptive data showed that, despite the
differences on the cultural make-up, the levels of knowledge, attitudes and
values towards sexuality, sexual health and relationships are quite similar.
Further research, especially using qualitative methods needs to be developed in
order to assess and understand the role played by other variables (such as
culture) when justifying the individual differences found.