Study of the Day: Women's Use of Condoms Dwindles in College

New research shows that undergraduates who binge drink or have lower grades are more likely to engage in unsafe sex freshman year.

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PROBLEM: Unprotected sex puts women at greater risk for unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, yet there has been a gap in research involving condom use of women during their college years.

METHODOLOGY: Miriam Hospital researchers led by Jennifer Walsh recruited 279 first-year female college students and asked them to submit monthly reports on their use of condoms. To uncover possible predictors of unsafe behavior, they also included questions about participants' high school GPA, religious beliefs, parents' education levels, and whether they had smoked marijuana or engaged in binge drinking during the month before they entered college.

RESULTS: The respondents' use of condoms gradually declined over the course of their first year of college. Those who binge drink, had lower grades in high school, or come from poorer backgrounds tended to engage in unsafe sex the most.

CONCLUSION: Young women use condoms less frequently during their freshman year, and this behavior may be predicted by socioeconomic status, high school GPA, and substance use.

SOURCE: The full study, "Changes in Women's Condom Use over the First Year of College," is published in the Journal of Sex Research.

Image: cristi180884/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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