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04/30/91

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Student sexual activity up, drinking down, survey shows

STANFORD -- Compared to four years earlier, more Stanford students were sexually active in 1990, while fewer drank alcohol, a University health survey indicates.

The percentage of students reporting that they were sexually active increased from 66 percent in 1986 to 76 percent in 1990. The percentage reporting that they consumed alcoholic beverages dropped from 93 percent in 1986 to 83 percent in 1990.

Those are just two of the results of a survey of 1,250 Stanford students conducted last May by the University's Cowell Student Health Center.

Cowell surveys Stanford students every three to five years on their health and health-related behaviors. Questionnaires were mailed to 20 percent of all students registered; about half the surveys were filled out and returned.

In addition to providing information about student alcohol and drug use, psychological well-being and general health maintenance behaviors, the 1990 survey offers the first detailed statistics ever gathered on Stanford student sexual behavior. Among the findings:

  • 95 percent of the sexually active respondents reported activity only or mostly with the opposite sex. The percentage of students who indicated sexual activity with the "same sex only or mostly" and "with b as 5 percent.
  • Among respondents who had been sexually active, 63 percent reported having had only one partner the previous academic year, 22 percent reported two partners, and 15 percent indicated three or more partners.
  • 74 percent of respondents who had penovaginal intercourse and 66 percent of those who had anal intercourse reported that they did not always use condoms correctly and consistently for the prevention of pregnancy or se ransmitted diseases.

The results of the survey "strongly indicate that it is critical that sexual disease prevention activities and sexual health promotion programs be prioritized into the student health agenda at Stanford," said Patricia F director of the Cowell Health Promotion Program.

  • About 30 percent of respondents had already been tested or planned to be tested for the HIV antibody. Four of the students tested reported positive tests, Cowell staffers say the rate is similar to that at college ca ationwide.
  • About half of the respondents reported that they had made a significant life change due to the threat of AIDS. Of those who were not married or in long-term relationships, the most frequently named change was "rem in" (14 percent), followed by "insisted on condom use" (13 percent). Six percent said they were seeking a "lifelong partner." Three percent said they stopped having sex.

When it came to their general health, Stanford students reported feeling healthy and functioning well in daily life. However, significantly more men -- both undergraduate (36 percent) and graduate (42 percent) -- reported their health as excellent, compared with undergraduate women (24 percent) and graduate women (25 percent).

Half of the women reported experiencing stress at Stanford because of their gender, compared with 14 percent of undergraduate men and 10 percent of graduate men.

African American women (89 percent) and men (82 percent) and Native American women (85 percent) and men (69 percent) reported the highest levels of stress due to ethnicity, compared with 20 percent of white male students and 1 1 percent of white female students.

One of the students' major complaints was lack of sleep. More than one-third of all respondents reported not sleeping regularly enough to feel rested, with a greater percentage of undergraduates -- especially women -- repor sleep shortage than did graduate students.

Students also were concerned about their nutrition, weight and body image. Only a third of the respondents ate two or more balanced meals a day every day of the week.

Although 95 percent of the respondents were within 10 pounds of normal weight for their height and frame, only one-third felt that their weight was acceptable.

Seventy-four percent of undergraduate women respondents and 70 percent of graduate women respondents expressed a desire to lose weight, compared with 35 percent of undergraduate male respondents and 37 percent of graduate male respondents.

Stanford students, who rely on their bikes to get around campus, found bicycles not without their hazards. Twelve percent of the respondents reported having had a bicycle accident, with undergraduate men (15 percent) and underg raduate women (17 percent) reporting significantly more bicycle accidents than graduate women (3 percent) and graduate men (7 percent). Undergraduate women were the least likely to report always wearing a safety helmet to prevent head injury.

When riding in a car, 76 percent of the respondents reported always wearing their seat belts.

Paralleling other recent surveys and national campus trends, few Stanford respondents said they were using any substances, legal or illegal, other than alcohol.

Less than 3 percent of students reported using marijuana once a month or more and less than 2 percent reported daily cigarette smoking.

Alcohol consumption percentages among undergraduates -- both women and men -- were significantly higher than those of graduate women and men. Of students who drank, approximately 27 percent reported drinking to a level of impai rment (three or more drinks at a time) during a typical drinking episode. A significantly larger percentage of undergraduate men (51 percent) than undergraduate women (31 percent) fell into this category.

Nearly a quarter of all undergraduates reported not having been able to recall events due to alcohol, while only about 7 percent of graduate respondents reported similar problems.

Similarly, significantly fewer graduate students (12 percent) than undergraduates (22 percent) reported an inability to concentrate and study at times during the academic year because of alcohol. Men and women reported equal r ates of sex under the influence of alcohol.

Thirty-six percent of all respondents indicated that they had driven or been in a car with an intoxicated driver during the past academic year. Nearly one in four of the respondents were concerned about how much their parents d rank.

In their personal lives, most respondents were satisfied with their relationships with their parents, friends, roommates and professors. Only 13 percent of the students found their personal or family lives very or extremely str essful.

Sixty-four percent said they often or always felt energetic. On the other hand, one out of three students indicated feeling anxious or tense often if not almost always, and half the students often or almost always felt overwhel med by things to do.

One in five said they felt tired without any apparent reason, and one in five students felt lonely often or almost always. More women than men said they felt lonely at least sometimes. More African American women than any other group of women indicated feeling lonely. Nearly half of the international male students (45 percent) said they felt lonely often or almost always.

The survey results indicate "a need to continue services which build a sense of community and belongingness for students at the University," said Alejandro Martinez, director of counseling and psychological services at "Stanford provides a challenging environment, but we need to make sure it does not become a liability."

A summary of the findings of the report is available by calling Fabiano at (415) 723-0821 or Martinez at 723-3785. A complete report will be available by the end of spring quarter 1991.

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