Alcohol, conscientiousness and event-level condom use


Gareth Hagger-Johnson, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK (e-mail:


Objectives. Alcohol impairs judgement and could be causally implicated in sexual risk taking. However, meta-analytic studies do not find an association between alcohol use and unprotected sexual intercourse at the event level, where both behaviours refer to the same point in time. Associations between personality traits and sexual risk taking have been replicated across several studies. Traits may be better conceptualized as independent risk factors, where alcohol use mediates the association between personality and condom use. The objective of our study was to determine the direct and indirect effects connecting big five personality traits with condom use, potentially mediated through alcohol use during the most recent sexual encounter.

Design. A sample of community-dwelling adults (N= 190) completed measures of big five personality traits and a detailed assessment of event-level sexual behaviour and alcohol use.

Results. In regression model adjusting for known confounding factors, including oral contraceptive use, partner type, and hazardous drinking patterns, one standard deviation increase in conscientiousness was associated with a 1.14-fold increase in the odds of using a condom with most recent sexual partner (p= .04). Repeating the analysis using zero-inflated regression for estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC) values revealed an association between conscientiousness and eBAC (p= .002). There was no association between alcohol and condom use in either analysis.

Conclusions. The results illustrate that personality traits are strong independent risk factors for sexual risk taking and eBAC values during sexual events, and both should be incorporated into research designs. Future research should evaluate specific facets of conscientiousness, and whether eBAC mediates the association between personality and condom use in other samples. The possibility of tailoring interventions to personality traits is discussed.