Better health services = better sexual health for students

Not a shocker, but good to know: Research from Minnesota shows that colleges with more health services have students with healthier sex lives.

New research from Minnesota showed that schools with more health services had students with healthier sex lives. Over 6,300 students from 28 Minnesota colleges were in the study. All the students were 18-24 years old, unmarried, had had sex in the last year, and attended a 2- or 4-year college. The study took into account students’ age, race/ethnicity, the amount of time they spend on campus, and parents’ income and education levels.

At colleges with convenient health clinics offering a range of sexual health services—like birth control and emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—students were:

  • less likely to have an accidental pregnancy (4%) compared to students at schools without a clinic (7%);

  • more likely to use a method of birth control the last time they had sex (92% versus 87%); and

  • more likely to use a condom the last time they had sex (74% versus 60%).

The study can’t say exactly why students at colleges with convenient health clinics were more careful when it came to their sexual health. It could be that those students are more likely to take advantage of sexual health services, or that having services available meant more students talked about sexual health and shared other resources.

There was one surprising finding: students at schools with better access to health services were actually less likely to get tested for STIs. The study can’t say why, though—it could be, for example, that those students feel they’re at a lower risk for STIs since they use condoms consistently.

The bottom line

For students who go to schools that have health centers, taking advantage of their confidential services can pay off big time with fewer accidental pregnancies, lower risk for STIs, and fewer headaches from the romantic road bumps of college life.

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