Introduction. Patients' sexual concerns are frequently underestimated because of health professionals' reluctance to address sexual health issues. Though it has been documented that sexual attitudes are extremely influential in everyday clinical practice, limited data exist on identifying health professionals' attitudes.
Aim. To explore sexual attitudes in medical students and students in allied health professions.
Main Outcome Measures. The Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (DSFI)–Attitude Subscale was used to assess sexual attitudes.
Methods. The sample included 1st and 4th year college students enrolled in the following academic departments/schools of two academic institutions leading to health professions: medical school, psychology, pharmaceutical school, nursing and midwifery. Demographic data were obtained relating to sexual behaviors and information sources on sexual issues. Data were analyzed using independent samples t-test and two-way analysis of variance, as well as logistic regression and Pearson's correlation coefficient.
Results. A total of 714 students (81.9% females) participated in the study: 48.5% 1st year students and 51.5% seniors with a mean age of 20.17 years (SD = 1.87, range 17–25). Using iterative cluster analysis on DSFI scores, participants were divided in conservative (N = 167), liberal (N = 224), and neutral (N = 323) clusters. A significant gender difference on sexual attitudes was obtained (P < 0.001) with male students being more liberal compared to females (mean = 18.26 and mean = 11.13, respectively). Differences were also revealed for the field but not for the year of study.
Analysis also revealed that liberalism in sexual attitudes is more likely to be affected by a liberal stance toward religion (OR: 2.39), receiving information for sexual matters mainly from peers (OR: 1.86), and media influence on students' sexual life (OR: 1.68).
Conclusions. Gender, personal values, and experiences influence students' attitudes toward sexual issues. Since negative attitudes can impede effective sexual health consultations, it is imperative to incorporate courses on effective communication and human sexuality in the medical and allied health professions curricula that will enhance students' awareness of their own values and prejudices. Papaharitou S, Nakopoulou E, Moraitou M, Tsimtsiou Z, Konstantinidou E, and Hatzichristou D. Exploring sexual attitudes of students in health professions. J Sex Med 2008;5:1308–1316.