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news release

Rebecca Wind

Monday, August 11, 2003


Teens are no less likely to use condoms after consuming alcohol than when they have not been drinking, according to "Adolescent Drinking and Sex: Findings from a Daily Diary Study", by Diane M. Morrison et al., published in the July/August 2003 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Contrary to the widely held hypothesis that alcohol consumption causes risky sexual practices, this study found that factors other than alcohol were more likely to be associated with teens' use of condoms.

The authors examined the diary entries and daily surveys of 112 sexually experienced adolescent men and women in Seattle. The teens were asked to report on various health-related and risky behaviors for eight weeks, including smoking, sleeping habits, substance use and sexual activity. One unique aspect of this study is that each participant's rate of condom use after drinking was compared with his or her own rate of condom use when not drinking (instead of compared to that of other teens). The participants were not told the focus of the study, to avoid any preconceptions or bias in their reporting.

Although alcohol consumption did not reduce the reported use of condoms among study participants, several other factors were associated with teens' use of condoms. Teens were more likely to use condoms with casual partners than with steady partners, were less likely to use condoms when other birth control was used and were more likely to use condoms when the sexual encounter was expected.

From these findings, the authors suggest that programs aimed at encouraging sexually active teens to use condoms focus on teens' access to and ability to use condoms, rather than on decreasing alcohol use.

Teenagers need guidance in how to have candid conversations about sexually transmitted diseases with their partners, and they need to be reminded that condoms are the only birth control method that protects against these diseases, said Dr. Morrison. Simply encouraging teens not to drink alcohol is not an effective way to reduce risky sexual behavior.

Also in this issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health:

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