Introduction/background/issues Evidence suggests a varied level of sexual health literacy (SHL) among university student populations. Accordingly, we evaluated the SHL among students at the University of Tasmania.
Methods Students were invited to complete an anonymous online questionnaire.
Recruitment was during August/September 2013. SHL was assessed by ARCSHS National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health and the Sexual Health Questionnaire. Predictors of literacy scores were evaluated by linear regression.
Results/discussions The study recruited 1,786 participants, or 8.2% of the student population, of similar composition to the general university population.
Female sex, older age, and sexual education and increased communication on sexual topics were significant predictors of literacy scores. Literacy increased with sexual experience (ever sex, earlier age of sexual debut, partner number, diversity of sexual activity). Students in medical/nursing disciplines had the highest SHL.
Compared to Australian/New Zealander students, overseas-born students had significantly lower ARC (-3.6%, p < 0.001) and SHS (-4.2%, p < 0.001), this driven by Malaysian, Indian and Chinese students. Compared to agnostic/atheist-identifying students, those of Buddhist (ARC: -5.4%, p = 0.014; SHS: -6.7%, p = 0.002), Muslim (ARC: -16.5%, p < 0.001; SHS: -13.4%, p = 0.001) and Protestant (ARC: -2.3%, p = 0.023; SHS: -4.4%, p < 0.001) identifications had markedly lower SHL. Importantly, many of these associations persisted on adjustment for age, sex, sexual education and sexual experience.
Conclusions/implications This study, one of the first targeting among university students in Australia, found a varied SHL by sex, age, sexual education and sexual experience, as well as by birthplace and religious affiliation. These findings have applications in orientation and education programs at Australian universities.
Key message This study substantiates the ongoing deficits in sexual health literacy in some minority religious/ethnic/birthplace populations, suggesting some role for remedial sexual health education in university orientation programs may be appropriate.
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