FRIDAY, March 2, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Women become less likely to insist on condom use during the course of their first year of college, new research finds.
Declining condom use was most notable among women who drank excessively, who had worse grades and who came from poorer backgrounds.
"We know unprotected sex puts women at greater risk for unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, yet there has been a gap in research specifically focusing on changes in condom use during women's college years," study author Jennifer Walsh, a researcher with the Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, R.I., said in a hospital news release.
The study was published online in the Journal of Sex Research.
The study focused on 279 freshman women -- nearly three-quarters of whom were white -- who provided monthly reports on their use of condoms, their grades and their drinking and marijuana habits. The women also gave background information on family income, their parents' education levels and their religious beliefs.
Over the course of the women's freshman year, condom use declined gradually.
Black women, women who had multiple prior sexual partners and women who said they were less likely to practice safe sex when drinking alcohol were less likely to ever start using condoms.
"College women often engage in serial monogamy, resulting in multiple partners during the college years, and they are often unaware of their partners' risk," Walsh said. "This makes continued condom use important for women's health."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on safe sex.