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The truth about sex and students

2013’s National College Health Assessment paints a revealing picture
January 22, 2014
By Gabriella Szabo

If you’re used to reading sensationalized articles about students’ sex lives, you may be in for a surprise. According to a recent university survey, life at school is tamer than it looks.

The 2013 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) has revealed that more than a quarter of Concordia undergraduates did not have a sexual partner for the 12 months preceding the survey, while 47 per cent had only one partner in the same period.

Among sexually active Concordia undergrads, only 10 per cent — a figure that represented males and females almost evenly — reported having four or more partners. Eighty-five per cent of graduate students reported having one partner, or none at all.

Of those surveyed, 10.2 per cent identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning. Fifty-eight per cent said they were in a relationship, and 42 per cent said they were not.

Sexual activity
Eighty-five per cent of sexually active graduate students reported having one partner, or none at all. | Photo by cowssaymoo1991 (Flickr Creative Commons)

The results were collected at 32 Canadian post-secondary universities in the spring of 2013. In total, 34,039 students (an average of 19 per cent) responded to the American College Health Association’s web questionnaire.

Sexual health at Concordia

Less than a third of the NCHA students reported having been tested for HIV, yet rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are rising nationally in all age groups. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, approximately 70 per cent of adults will contract an STI at least once in their lifetime.

The staff at Concordia’s Health Services recommend that everyone be screened for HIV and other STIs on a regular basis. “Getting tested is a normal part of life,” says Nurse Josée Lavoie. “Make it part of your routine. If you have sex, get tested regularly.”

More than half of surveyed students had been vaccinated against Hepatitis B, a virus that is transmitted through sexual contact. Health Services’ Routine Adult Vaccine Program aims to help ensure that students, staff and faculty are up to date on all their vaccines — including those that protect against STIs.

The reality of relationships

The NCHA survey covers more than sexuality. It asked students whether they had experienced abuse — whether emotional, physical or otherwise — in their intimate relationships. Among female undergrads, the rate was 9.5 per cent, while among males it was 6.2 per cent.

With these statistics in mind, Concordia is committed to fostering a culture of consent within its community. Last November, the university’s Student Services established the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC), an initiative that offers counselling services and more to students, staff and faculty.

In February, the SARC is planning to launch an awareness campaign that will encourage students to communicate about consent — what it means, how to ask for it, how to give it and how to make sure they are respecting their partners’ boundaries.

Furthermore, as part of Concordia’s first Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Week (February 10 to 14), Student Services is hosting a mental health and wellness fair on Wednesday, February 12, in the atrium of the EV Building. A SARC representative will be on hand to discuss emotionally healthy relationships.

The Let’s Talk: Mental Health and Wellness Fair takes place on Wednesday, February 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Abe and Harriet Gold Atrium, Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (1515 Ste. Catherine St. W.) on the Sir George Williams Campus.

Learn more about safer play between the sheets.

If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms, visit Health Services as soon as possible.

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