Sexual risk behaviors are common among college students, and research examining the environmental context of these behaviors is important for prevention. The presence of college sexual health resources is a potentially important part of that context.
In a 2010–2011 survey, 6,318 undergraduates from 28 two- and four-year Minnesota college campuses provided data on their sexual health behaviors. In addition, a specially designed inventory was used to assess the sexual health resources available on each campus. Multilevel regression was used to test the associations of four types of resources with students’ condom use, birth control use, STD or HIV testing, and unplanned pregnancy.
In models that controlled for students’ personal and demographic characteristics, the higher the level of sexual health resources at a college, the lower the likelihood that students had had intercourse without birth control, intercourse without a condom and involvement in unplanned pregnancy. For example, students attending colleges with the maximum number of general clinic resources had a lower predicted probability of reporting nonuse of reliable birth control at last intercourse than students attending colleges with no resources (7% vs. 14%). After college characteristics were adjusted for, most measures of resources remained significant, although associations were reduced; two measures became significant in unexpected directions.
Colleges’ provision of sexual health resources may be associated with students’ sexual health behaviors. Research using quasi-experimental or experimental designs is needed to assess the mechanisms underlying these associations; such work could lead to interventions that might help reduce students’ risky behaviors.
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2013, doi: 10.1363/4513213
Marla E. Eisenberg is associate professor, Kate E. Lechner is research assistant and Ellen A. Frerich is research assistant, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics; Peter J. Hannan is senior research fellow, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health; Katherine A. Lust is director of research, Boynton Health Service; and Carolyn Garcia is associate professor, School of Nursing—all at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.