4 Factors That Lead Students to Take Sexual Risks


College-aged students may be more likely to participate in risky sexual behaviors if they are experiencing instability in their lives.

College-aged students may be more likely to participate in risky sexual behaviors if they are experiencing instability in their lives.

Researchers from the University of Illinois hypothesized that transitional instability, which is common among young adults, would be linked with sexual risk-taking.

Their results showed both a positive and significant association between the 2.

Four factors related to instability that amplified this association were:

1. Depression

2. Loneliness

3. Drinking as a way to cope with emotional pain

4. Drinking as a way of fitting in with a crowd

“Young adults experience a lot of instability caused by frequent transitions in their lives,” study author Jill Bowers, a University of Illinois researcher in human development and family studies, said in a press release.

She noted that students may be going through changes related to their housing, friends, jobs, roommates, and significant others. Some students may even transfer to a new university, which would amplify their level of instability.

On both physical and emotional levels, stress can also lead students to feel unstable.

Risky sex was defined in this study as sex with uncommitted partners, casual sex where the 2 partners did not discuss the action beforehand, and “impulsive” sexual behavior.

The study involved almost 400 students (100 men and 290 women, plus 8 who did not report their sex) at 2 universities.

The researchers had also wanted to examine whether family communication played a role in risky sexual behaviors, but they did not see a significant link between the 2.

The researchers suggested that there should be more messages on campus about how to handle emotional stress.

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