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In a good news, bad news situation for many parents, new research is finding while most young women in college are practicing sex, they appear to be doing so in much safer ways.
About 500 first-year female students from various U.S. universities were surveyed for the study, which appeared in the Journal of Sex Research.
In monthly interviews across a single school year, each was asked about issues ranging from sleep patterns and diet, to substance use and sexual behavior.
Researchers wanted to know how often alcohol or drug use played a role in decision making about sex, as well as patterns surrounding birth control and STD protection.
The findings were drawn from more than 1,800 reports of intercourse shared from 297 of the participants. These did not reflect the entire sexual history during that time, as the women were only asked to report their two most recent encounters when surveyed.
“One in five encounters involved alcohol.
Condoms were used six out of 10 times.”
Only one in five sexual encounters were found to involve alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking was only found to be involved 13 percent of the time, with 6 percent involving marijuana use.
New partners were found to be a common link among women using substances or alcohol with sex. More casual encounters with lesser-known partners saw a higher likelihood of substance use, except with marijuana.
The results were viewed largely as positive, suggesting young women are less likely to be engaging in risky encounters. Such encounters are often associated with a higher risk of STDs, forgetting birth control or forgoing safe-sex measures.
Condoms were found to be in use roughly six out of 10 times, slightly more common among casual partners. For instance, with partners classified as friends, condoms were used 74% of the time. For acquaintances, it is 79%.
When drinking was involved, condom use appeared to increase. The study’s authors suggest this has more to do with the casual nature of those encounters where alcohol use is involved than it does with the actual drinking.