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Youth sexual behaviour in a boomtown: implications for the control of sexually transmitted infections
  1. S Goldenberg1,
  2. J Shoveller1,
  3. A Ostry2,
  4. M Koehoorn1
  1. 1
    Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  2. 2
    Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
  1. Shira Goldenberg, University of British Columbia, Department of Health Care & Epidemiology, 5804 Fairview Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6T 1Z3; shiragol{at}


Background: Northeastern British Columbia, Canada, is undergoing rapid in-migration of young, primarily male, workers in response to the “boom” in the oil/gas industries. Chlamydia rates in the region exceed the provincial average by 32% (294.6 cases per 100 000 persons compared with 213.3). Evidence indicates that sociocultural and structural determinants of young people’s sexual health are key to consider in the design of interventions.

Objectives: To investigate how sociocultural and structural features related to the oil/gas boom are perceived to affect the sexual behaviour of youth in a Northeastern “boomtown”.

Methods: The study included ethnographic fieldwork (8 weeks) and in-depth interviews with 25 youth (ages 15–25 years) and 14 health/social service providers.

Results: Participants identified four main ways in which the sociocultural and structural conditions created by the boom affect sexual behaviours, fuelling the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs): mobility of oil/gas workers; binge partying; high levels of disposable income and gendered power dynamics.

Conclusions: The sociocultural and structural conditions that are fostered by a resource-extraction boom appear to exacerbate sexual health inequalities among youths who live and work in these rapidly urbanising, remote locales. To meet the needs of this population, we recommend STI prevention and testing service delivery models that incorporate STI testing outreach to oil/gas workers and condom distribution. Global, national and local STI control efforts should consider the realities and needs of similar subpopulations of young people.

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  • Goldenberg conducted the research under the supervision of Drs Shoveller, Koehoorn and Ostry. The data were analysed by Goldenberg and Shoveller, with ongoing support and extensive input from Drs Koehoorn and Ostry. Goldenberg and Shoveller jointly wrote the initial draft of this manuscript, while Drs. Koehoorn and Ostry provided theoretical and editorial input that was incorporated into subsequent drafts.

  • Funding: This study was supported by the BC Medical Services Foundation.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: Ethics approval was obtained from the University of British Columbia and the local health authority.