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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Attitudes to sexual health in the United States: results from a national survey of youth aged 15–25 years

Matthew Hogben A D , Christopher Harper B , Melissa A. Habel A , Kathryn Brookmeyer A and Allison Friedman C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30030, USA.

B Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30030, USA.

C Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30030, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email: mhogben@cdc.gov

Sexual Health - https://doi.org/10.1071/SH16164
Submitted: 2 September 2016  Accepted: 6 May 2017   Published online: 26 June 2017

Abstract

Background: Several common global definitions of sexual health refer to physical, emotional and social well-being, with respect to sexuality, and also to the need for this well-being to be reflected for all individuals in relationships. How well sexual health definitions fit US youths’ attitudes to sexual health, and associations between these attitudes, sexual behaviours and sexual health care were assessed. Methods: In total, 4017 youth aged between 15 and 25 years via an online survey panel, weighted to be representative of the US population, were surveyed. Respondents reported their attitudes towards seven dimensions of sexual health that we abstracted from existing global definitions (emotional fulfillment, social connectedness, spirituality, overall pleasure, physical intimacy, mental fulfillment, reciprocal benefits). Respondents also reported on sexual health-related discussions with partners, sexual behaviours, and their use of sexual health care. Outcomes through weighted frequency estimates and ordinal regression models were reported. Results: Youth generally construed all seven dimensions as important to sexual health, with the emotional dimension rated most favourably. Attitudes to the dimensions of overall pleasure, physical intimacy and spirituality were most consistently related to sexual health discussions and behaviours. The behaviours most consistently related to sexual health attitudes were going for a sexual health check-up, discussing birth control/pregnancy and discussing risk before sex without a condom. Conclusions: Youth construal of sexual health fits well with global sexual health definitions. Attitudes to dimensions of sexual health were related to some sexual health-related behaviours, especially healthcare use and complex discussions.


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