Wednesday 22 September 2010 9:33am
New research from the University of Otago, Christchurch, shows young drinkers are ignoring safe sex messages and significantly raising their risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Researchers from the University of Otago’s Christchurch Health & Development Study have for the first time quantified the relationship in New Zealand between youth drinking and getting an STI.
They interviewed more than 1000 participants over the course of 15 years about their average weekly alcohol intake and whether they had contracted a STI.
Researchers found a clear and consistent trend for increasing involvement with alcohol to be linked with a higher risk of contracting an STI.
This was when a wide range of other variables were discounted.
Researchers found the heaviest drinkers in the study (who at their peak were consuming up to a litre of spirits and a dozen beers in a week) were 80 per cent more likely to contract an STI than other young people.
Lead researcher Dr Joe Boden says it was not surprising to find a link between drinking - particularly heavy consumption - and loosening of inhibitions.
What was disappointing however was the degree to which young people appeared to be ignoring the safe sex messages they as a ‘post-HIV’ generation had been exposed to.
“These are people who grew up in the post AIDS era and have had loads of education about safe sex and the risks of STIs. They are getting complacent and the safe sex message is going out the window when they drink.’’
Boden and his colleagues interviewed participants at age 15, 18, 21, 25 and 30.
They classified participants into three groups, according to their alcohol intake.
Group 1 (Heaviest drinkers)
- At their peak consumption (between ages 22 and 25) members of this group on average were drinking 51 standard units of alcohol a week.
- One in ten people from this group had at least one STI between age 15 and 30.
- This group made up 100 of the 1000 study participants.
Group 2 (Second heaviest drinkers)
- At their peak consumption (between ages 22 and 25) members of this group on average were drinking 11 standard units of alcohol a week.
- One in 19 people from this group contracted a STI between age 15 and 30.
- This group made up 200 of the 1000 study participants.
Group 3 (Lightest drinkers)
- At their peak consumption (between ages 22 and 25) members of this group on average were drinking 1.5 standard units of alcohol a week.
- One in 24 people from this group contracted a STI between age 15 and 30.
- This group made up 700 of the 1000 study participants.
Eighteen per cent of all participants had a STI at some stage between age 15 and 30.
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