May 10, 2008
Young Europeans Drink To Increase Chance of Sex
A new study of young adults in nine European countries found that nearly one in four women and one in three men deliberately engage in binge drinking and drug use to improve their chances of sex.
The study also found that young people were more at risk of unsafe sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The research involved 1,341 young people aged 16 to 35 in nine cities, one each in the UK, Austria, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. All the participants regularly frequented pubs, bars and nightclubs.
While the U.K. has long had a reputation for underage sex and binge drinking, the similarities between Britain and the other countries examined in the study were remarkable.
The researchers found that a third of the young men and 23% of the women reported they consumed alcohol to increase their chance of sex.
Although the association between risky sexual behavior and the use of drugs and alcohol has been long known, this particular study showed that young adults were engaging in the behavior "Ëstrategically', in an attempt to improve their sex lives.
The study also revealed that the early use of drugs and alcohol was closely linked to having sex under the age of 16 years, particularly in girls.
Almost half of participants in Vienna, Austria had consumed alcohol and had sex by the time they were 16, compared with 37% in Palma, Spain, 36% in Venice, Italy, and 30% in Liverpool.
Similar results were found for those under age 16 who took drugs, but the researchers found variations in popularity of different drugs among the countries involved in the study. More than one in four young adults surveyed reported using cocaine to prolong sex, and the researchers found the drug was also linked to having multiple partners.
The study also found a strong association between the use of drugs and alcohol and an increase in risky behavior and regret about having had sex. Participants who reported being drunk in the previous four weeks were more likely to have five or more partners and to have had sex without the use of condoms. They were also more likely to report having regretted sex after consuming drugs or alcohol in the past year.
The study found the use of Cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy produced similar consequences among the participants.
Professor Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moore's University and the study's lead researcher, told BBC News: "Millions of young Europeans now take drugs and drink in ways which alter their sexual decisions and increase their chances of unsafe sex or sex that is later regretted.
"Yet despite the negative consequences, we found many are deliberately taking these substances to achieve quite specific sexual effects."
Bellis added that substance abuse strategies and efforts to promote safe sexual behavior must consider the fact that the two were inextricably linked.
"When it comes to drugs and alcohol young people learn from us, the adults who help determine the culture in which young people are learning about sex, and learning about drugs and alcohol. "Sex and relationships education also needs to include more discussion about the association between alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex," Simon Blake, chief executive of Brook, told BBC News.
"The report is a good reminder of the multiple dimensions of drink-related harm," Frank Sodeen of Alcohol Concern told BBC News, adding that local authorities should think comprehensively about projects to reduce alcohol use and incorporate sexual health issues.
The study was published in BMC Public Health. A provisional report can be viewed at http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-8-155.pdf.