University Students' Sexual Health Knowledge: A Scoping Literature Review

Christine Cassidy, Janet Curran, Audrey Steenbeek, Donald Langille


Sexual health plays an important role in the well-being of university students. The literature shows that the majority of university undergraduates are sexually active and at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs); however, the breadth and degree of the literature on their sexual health knowledge is unclear. The purpose of this scoping review was to gain a deeper understanding of the state of research on the sexual health knowledge of university/college students globally. A 5-stage framework was used to guide the review and to characterize the literature on sexual health knowledge. Articles published in English between 2000 and 2014 were reviewed if they included university students as a population of interest and described the methods used to measure sexual health knowledge. Of the 2,386 articles retrieved, 91 met the criteria. The majority of the articles (n = 79) used a cross-sectional design to investigate students' knowledge about HIV/AIDS (n = 45), STIs (n = 23), HPV (n = 9), and contraception (n = 24). The review highlights gaps in the literature and in findings relating to the research dominance of various geographic locations, common research designs, the wide range of measurement tools used, and the variety of sexual health knowledge outcomes of interest. The review provides a useful description of the literature on sexual health knowledge among university/college students and some recommendations for moving the field forward.

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