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Original article
Self-perceived risk of STIs in a population-based study of Scandinavian women
  1. Sonia Guleria1,
  2. Mette Tuxen Faber1,
  3. Bo T Hansen2,
  4. Lisen Arnheim-Dahlström3,
  5. Kai-Li Liaw4,
  6. Christian Munk1,
  7. Mari Nygård2,
  8. Susanne Krüger Kjær1,5
  1. 1 Unit of Virus, Lifestyle and Genes, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2 Department of Research, Cancer Registry of Norway, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3 Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  4. 4 Epidemiology at Merck, Merck Research Laboratories, Kenilworth, NJ, USA
  5. 5 Department of Gynecology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copehagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Professor Susanne Krüger Kjær, Unit of Virus, Lifestyle and Genes, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, 2100, Denmark; susanne{at}


Objective This study examined the associations between current behaviours/characteristics and self-perceived risk for STIs, among randomly selected women aged 18–45 years from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Method A population-based, cross-sectional, questionnaire study (paper based, web based and telephone based) was conducted during 2011–2012. We compared medium–high STI risk perception with no/low risk perception. The associations were explored for women who had ever had sexual intercourse and for women with a new partner in the last 6 months using multivariable logistic regression.

Result The overall prevalence of medium–high STI risk perception was 7.4%. It was highest among women aged 18–24 years (16.2%) and among the Danish women (8.8%). Number of new sexual partners in the last 6 months (≥3vs 0 partners, OR 14.94, 95% CI 13.20 to 16.94) was strongly associated with medium–high STI risk perception. Among women with a new partner in the last 6 months, lack of condom use increased medium–high STI risk perception (OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.52 to 1.96). Genital warts in the last year, binge drinking and being single were associated with increased risk perception and remained statistically significant after additional adjustments were made for number of new partners and condom use with new partners in the last 6 months.

Conclusion Subjective perception of risk for STI was associated with women’s current risk-taking behaviours, indicating women generally are able to assess their risks for STIs. However, a considerable proportion of women with multiple new partners in the last 6 months and no condom use still considered themselves at no/low risk for STI.

  • sexually transmitted infections
  • risk perception
  • scandinavian women
  • sexual behavior
  • cross-sectional

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  • Handling editor Catherine H Mercer

  • Contributors CM, BTH, MN, LA-D, K-LL and SKK designed the questionnaire and conceived the study. CM, BTH, MN, LA-D and SKK collected data. SG and MTF conducted analyses and drafted the paper. All authors contributed to the writing of this paper by data interpretation and critical revision of drafts. All authors approved the final draft.

  • Funding Merck & Co., Inc. sponsored the data collection of the study (grant numbers EPO 8014.016 and EPO 8014.033). SG is supported by internal funding from Danish Cancer Research Center, Unit of Virus, Lifestyle and Genes.

  • Competing interests CM received lecture fees and support for conference participation from Sanofi Pasteur MSD. MN has received research grants from MSD/Merck through the affiliating institute. LA-D has received grant support from Merck, Sanofi Pasteur MSD and GlaxoSmithKline. K-LL is an employee at Merck Sharp & Dome Corp, a subsidiary of Merck & Co, Inc, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and may own stock or stock options in Merck. SKK has received lecture fees, scientific advisory board fees from Merck and Sanofi Pasteur MSD and unrestricted research grants through the affiliating institute from Merck.

  • Ethics approval In Denmark, approval was obtained from the Data Protection Agency. Approval from the Scientific Ethical Committee is not required in Denmark for questionnaire studies that do not include collection of biological samples. In Norway and Sweden the studies were approved by respective Research Ethics Committee/Data Protection Agency (Norway: 2011/1376 A, 8 September 2011 and Sweden: 04-795/4, 24 November 2004).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.