Early sexual debut linked to STIs

January 9, 2008

Early initiation of sexual activity among adolescents is associated with long-term negative sexual outcomes such as increased sexual risk behaviors and problems in sexual functioning, reports an article published online Nov. 29 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Early initiation of sexual activity among adolescents is associated with long-term negative sexual outcomes such as increased sexual risk behaviors and problems in sexual functioning, reports an article published online Nov. 29 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Theo G.M. Sandfort, PhD, of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from a cross-sectional sample of 8,466 US adults to investigate the impact of age of first sexual activity on sexual health outcomes.

Early initiation of sexual activity was associated with risk factors for sexually transmitted infections, such as increased numbers of sexual partners and sexual intercourse under the influence of alcohol or drugs, while late initiation of sex was associated with fewer risk factors. Men whose first sexual experience occurred relatively early or late were more likely to report problems with sexual arousal and orgasm. Sexual relationship satisfaction was not related to age of initiation of sex. However, a history of nonconsensual sex was independently associated with worse sexual outcomes in men and women.

“In-depth knowledge of sexual initiation patterns and health outcomes and how they are affected by individual, social, and structural factors, including exposure to sexual education programs, is urgently needed to inform adolescent health policies and programs,” the authors conclude.

Sandfort TG, Orr M, Hirsch JS, et al. Long-term health correlates of timing of sexual debut: results from a national US study. Am J Public Health. 2008;98:155-161.