Study highlights casual sex among students

University students have long been stereotyped as promiscuous - and new research shows it is true.

A study in the New Zealand Medical Journal has found having multiple sexual partners was common and only half of university students used a condom the last time they had sex.

The University of Otago research surveyed the sexual health of 2922 students aged 17 to 24 from universities nationwide.

It found 20 per cent of respondents reported at least three partners in the last 12 months.

Ten per cent reported having sex with between 10 and 20 people and 3 per cent reported more than 20 sexual partners.

Out of those surveyed 32 per cent had been drinking when they last had sex.

Almost half of the respondents reported at least three sexual partners in their lives.

However, 57 per cent of people reported only one sexual partner in the last 12 months.

The study said condom use was "uncommon and inversely associated" with the number of recent sexual partners.

"The prevalence of risky sexual behaviours in this population raises concern about the number of students at risk of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies," it said.

In 2009, New Zealand's chlamydia rate was three to four times higher than Australia and the UK, it said.

"Given the relatively chaotic experience of early university experience and the addition of frequent heavy drinking to the mix, a better understanding of how drinking behaviour affects sexual behaviour and barriers to using condoms would inform public health intervention strategies," it said.

In total, 155 people, or 11 per cent, reported having sex that resulted in an unintentional pregnancy.

Of those, 74 per cent of women and 72 per cent of men said the pregnancy was terminated but 19 per cent of men did not know the outcome of the pregnancy.

"One in 20 students had, or contributed to, at least one unintentional pregnancy," it said.

The survey response was voluntary and women were over-represented.

The study also found students who reported being attracted to both men and women were "significantly more likely" to lose their virginity before the age of 16.

Canterbury District Health Board clinical director of sexual health Ed Coughlan said it was "really difficult" to say how the sexual behaviour of Canterbury students compared with the rest of the country.

"The relationship between sexual behaviour and alcohol is definitely something that needs looking at more closely," he said.

The Press