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Pathways between depression, substance use and multiple sex partners among Northern and Indigenous young women in the Northwest Territories, Canada: results from a cross-sectional survey
  1. Carmen H Logie1,2,
  2. Candice Lys3,4,
  3. Moses Okumu1,
  4. Cristina Leone5
  1. 1 Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4 Fostering Open eXpression among Youth (FOXY), Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
  5. 5 Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carmen H Logie, Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V4 , Canada; carmen.logie{at}


Objectives Sexual and mental health disparities exist in the Northwest Territories (NWT) compared with other Canadian regions. STI rates are 10-fold higher, and youth suicide rates double the Canadian average. Scant research has examined associations between mental and sexual health among youth in the NWT. The study objective was to explore pathways from depression to multiple sex partners (MSP) among young women in the NWT, Canada.

Methods We implemented a cross-sectional survey in 2015–2016 with a venue-based recruitment sample of young women aged 13–17 attending secondary schools in 17 NWT communities. We conducted path analysis to test a conceptual model examining associations between depression and a history of MSP, examining substance use and peer support as mediators.

Results Participants (n=199; mean age: 13.8, SD: 1.27) mostly identified were Indigenous (n=154; 77.4%) and one-fifth (n=39; 20.5%) were sexually diverse/non-heterosexual. Almost two-thirds (n=119; 63.3%) reported depression symptoms. One-quarter (n=53; 26.6%) were currently dating, and 16.1% (n=32) reported a lifetime history of >1 sex partner (classified as having MSP). There was no direct effect between depression and MSP (β=0.189, p=0.087, 95% CI 0.046 to 0.260). Depression had a direct effect on substance use (β=0.023, p<0.050, 95% CI 0.118 to 0.500), and an indirect effect on MSP through substance use (β=0.498, SE=0.10, p<0.001, 95% CI 0.141 to 0.280). Depression was associated with lower peer support (β=−0.168, p<0.010, 95% CI −0.126 to 0.280); peer support was not associated with MSP (β=−0.158, p=0.130, 95% CI −0.126 to 0.001).

Conclusion This research is among the first to identify mental health factors associated with STI vulnerability among young women in the NWT. Findings demonstrate the importance of addressing depression and substance use in sexual health interventions in Northern contexts.

  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • adolescent
  • depression
  • women
  • substance-related disorders
  • American native continental ancestry group

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  • Handling editor Jackie A Cassell

  • Contributors CHL: conceptualised and led writing of this manuscript and contributed to data analyses. CL: conducted data collection, data management and contributed to manuscript writing and interpretation of findings. MO: led data analysis and contributed to manuscript writing. CL: contributed to data management and manuscript writing. All authors: provided edits and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health. CHL is also supported by an Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award. Funders played no role in study design, interpretation, analysis or manuscript preparation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Toronto Research Ethics Board.

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

  • Data sharing statement Researchers can request to access unpublished data from CHL and CL and will have to abide by Research Ethics Protocol guidelines to access the data.

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