Sex At Earlier Age Increases Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Seo Yoon Lee, RN

Department of Health Policy and Management
Graduate School of Public Health
Eun-Cheol Park MD, PhD
Institute of Health Services Research
Department of Preventive Medicine
Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a major public health issue which causes acute illness, infertility, long-term disability or other serious medical and psychological consequences, around the world. Adolescence is a key developmental period with rapid cognitive growth. In recent decades, substantial change in the sexual behaviors and attitudes of adolescents has occurred and this would lead them greater risk of STIs than other. Our study looked at the relationship between adolescents’ first sexual intercourse age and their STI experience, as well as to identify vulnerable time table of their sexual activity by considering the time gap between their secondary sex characteristic occurrence age and first sexual intercourse age.

The findings from our study show that earlier initiation of sexual intercourse increases the odds of experiencing STIs. Also as the age gap gets shorter, the odds of experiencing STIs increase.

Approximately 7.4% of boys and 7.5% of girls reported had STI. For both boys and girls, the chance of experiencing STIs increased as the age of first sexual intercourse decreased [boys: before elementary school (age 7 or under) OR=10.81, first grade (age 7or 8) OR=4.44, second grade (age 8 or 9) OR=8.90, fourth grade (age 10 or 11) OR=7.20, ninth grade (age 15 or 16) OR=2.31; girls: before elementary school OR=18.09, first grade OR=7.26, second grade OR=7.12, fourth grade OR=8.93, ninth grade OR=2.74]. The association between the absolute age gap (AAG: defined as absolute value of “Age gap” = [Age at first sexual intercourse] – [age of secondary sexual manifest]) and STI experience was examined additionally which the result showed, students who had sexual intercourse after their secondary sexual manifestation, as the AAG increases, the odds of STI experience were decreased (boys OR=0.93, girls OR=0.87).

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: The specific time period with sudden rise of OR in our study was second grade for boys and fourth grade for girls which is similar to the average age of secondary sexual characteristics manifestation. In previous study, during puberty an essential element for the development of immune system matures. So, it is possible that the sudden hormonal changes due to puberty which immune system is also in maturation may make adolescents’ bodies more vulnerable to external stimulations (i.e. infection) because their bodies need to time to adjust. Sexual intercourse happening in adolescent period is very risky behavior and it needs to be openly discussed. Since Koreans generally are not open-minded toward the sexual activity issue, this kind of mind needed to be change. Also, since they do not openly discuss about the issue with their parents, their sex related knowledges are more likely to be distorted. So, sex education needed to be practical and targeting not only students but their parents too. Also, HPV vaccination age should be lowered to before their secondary sexual characteristics manifest. Our study suggests that it is important to consider the time period of first sexual intercourse and to reinforce a monitoring system along with the development of other preventive strategies.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Since our study design is cross-sectional study, future studies should determine if there is a causal relationship between the AAG and the STI incidence by using cohort data. Also, even though it is a nationally representative study, it is still a survey. Thus, if there is a clinical data, its results would be very objective and convincible as medical means.

Citation:

Lee, S. Y., Lee, H. J., Kim, T. K., Lee, S. G. and Park, E.-C. (2015), Sexually Transmitted Infections and First Sexual Intercourse Age in Adolescents: The Nationwide Retrospective Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12: 2313–2323. doi: 10.1111/jsm.13071


Seo Yoon Lee, RN, & Eun-Cheol Park MD, PhD (2015). Sex At Earlier Age Increases Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases 

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