Correlates of sexual risk behaviour among young adults in two European countries


Correlates of sexual risk behaviour among young adults in two

European countries

R. Baptista-Gonçalves

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.

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