Public Health and Primary CareOriginal Article

Gender Differences in Sexual Health Knowledge Among Emerging Adults in Acute Care Settings

Carmen N. Burrell, DO; Melinda J. Sharon, MPH; John Bassler, MS; and Danielle M. Davidov, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: December 18, 2018

Accepted: February 5, 2019

Published: May 1, 2019

J Osteopath Med; 119(5): 289-298

Context: Emerging adults (aged 18-25 years) are increasingly seeking evaluation in acute-care clinics for sexual health–related concerns to receive treatment and education.

Objectives: To assess the sexual health knowledge of emerging adult patients by gender at acute-care health centers.

Methods: A prospective, self-administered survey was distributed from August 2014 through May 2016 to patients aged 18 to 24 years who presented to 1 of 4 acute-care locations in a university town in a mid-Atlantic state. Analyses included descriptive statistics, as well as χ2 and Fisher exact test crosstabulations to determine differences between genders.

Results: A total of 388 patients aged 18 to 24 years responded to the survey, with 81% of the sample identifying themselves as students and 64% identifying as female. Women were more likely than men to state that they sought sexual health advice at an urgent-care or walk-in clinic (70.3% vs 52.1%; P<.05). Human papillomavirus knowledge among women was significantly greater than among men (P<.0001). Open-ended responses were widespread and often incorrect, specifically with regard to the human papillomavirus vaccine and routine testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Conclusions: Women were more knowledgeable about sexual health than men. However, both genders were not as knowledgeable overall on sexual health topics as hypothesized. A stronger emphasis on gender-specific programming for sexual health education via community- and school-based programs throughout adolescence, supplemented with greater emphasis on routine preventive health care during adolescence and emerging adulthood, is encouraged.

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