August 1, 2003
Single, working women ages 18 to 25 are having even more unprotected sex, with more partners, than college students, according to research released today by Group Health. A telephone survey of 1,100 single women found that among sexually active young women outside the college setting, 61 percent reported having sex without a condom in the past three months, compared to 56 percent of female college students. A higher percentage of women ages 21 to 25 reported having unsafe sex than women ages 18 to 20. Those with more sex partners were more likely to have unprotected sex than those in monogamous relationships. Two-thirds of the women surveyed were from the Puget Sound area, and one-third from North Carolina.
Study co-author Delia Scholes, associate investigator at Group Health's Center for Health Studies, said despite having unsafe sex, the young women weren't worried about the risks. Seventy-eight percent felt they were at low risk for contracting an STD.
Despite their feelings of immunity, this group is hard hit by STDs. About 70 percent of STDs diagnosed in Washington state are in women under 25. Also, 77 percent of the state's 15,000 reported cases of chlamydia last year were in women between 15 and 24. Gonorrhea, the second most common Washington STD, infects women ages 20 to 24 more than any other age group.
The full report, "Factors Associated with Condom Use Among At-Risk Women Students and Nonstudents Seen in Managed Care," was published in the journal Preventive Medicine (2003;37;(2):163-170).
08.01.03; Julia Sommerfeld