August 1, 2003
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 findings are "very counterintuitive," according to Lisa Gilbert, director of research at the American Social Health Association, an STD awareness group. "You would certainly expect they would get less wild, more mature and make better decisions as they get older," she said. She speculated that safe sex is more on the minds of college students, since safe sex messages proliferate on campus.
08.01.03; Julia Sommerfeld