Background While depression is associated with sexual risk taking in adolescents, Canadian studies are few, many studies have not controlled for other risk factors, and none has examined associations of depression with having multiple sexual risks. We tested associations between multiple sexual risk taking and risk of depression while controlling for other salient factors in high school students in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Methods We surveyed sexually active male (n=418) and females (n=467) adolescents aged 15–19. Participants were asked about their risk of depression, perception of trust and helpfulness at school (social capital), sexual behaviours, substance use and sociodemographic factors. Logistic regressions were carried out to determine associations of depression with various levels of sexual risk-taking (none, one or two or more).
Results In unadjusted models depression predicted having two or more vs no sexual risk behaviours among both males and females. After controlling for other variables risk of depression remained significantly associated with having two or more sexual risks vs no risks for both males and females [RR Ratios 2.5 (95% CI 1.4 to 4) and 3.5 (95% CI 1.6 to 7.82) respectively] and in relation to one vs no risks for females (RRR=1.9; 95% CI 1.1 to 3.5).
Conclusions These consistent and independent associations of depression risk with multiple sexual risk-taking behaviours should lead healthcare workers interacting with adolescents to consider asking about sexual risk behaviours or testing for sexually transmitted infections among patients showing symptoms of depression. Alternatively, patients engaging in sexually risk taking might be screened for depression.
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