Medical students’ notions about sexual and reproductive health

Medical students’ notions about sexual and reproductive health

S. Tschudin, J. Alder, L. Herberich, J. Bitzer

University Women’s Hospital, Gynecology & Social Medicine and

Psychosomatics, Basel, Switzerland

Objectives With regard

to optimize preventive strategies in the field of sexual and reproductive health

it is important to have insight into young people’s notions about sexuality as

well as to be familiar with future physicians views about this topic. With a

special focus on gender differences we asked first year medical students about

their notions.

Design and methods In the run-up to introductive lectures on

sexual and reproductive health issues, a structured questionnaire was

distributed to all first year medical students. On an anonymous and voluntary

basis they had to answer questions about attractiveness, sexual desire,

difficulties in communicating about sexual issues, normal and deviant sexual

behaviour, HIV transmission, abortion rates and domestic violence.

Results From

191 registered first year students 56% returned the questionnaire. The mean age

was 20.4 years. On a scale from 1 to 4 physical attractiveness (male 3.7 vs.

female 3.34), similar interests (3.18 vs. 3.39) and intimacy (2.95 vs. 3.49)

were quoted as most important to be attracted to someone. Out of the five senses

“to feel” was judged most important for sexual arousal. Predominant

signs for being fallen in love with a person were to think about and to seek

closeness to this person and vegetative reactions, but far less sexual desire (mean

3.84, 3.58, 3.62 and 2.55 resp.). The students mostly agreed that men have more

easily sex with women they hardly know and that women are more relation-focussed.

Homosexuality was seen as a variant of normal sexuality by 66%, unnatural by

28%, abnormal by 5% and immoral by 1%. While vaginal intercourse, oral sex and

masturbation were seen as normal sexual activities by most of them, this was far

less the case for anal sex (mean 3.96, 3.51, 3.58 and 2.49 resp.). The majority

correctly chose heterosexual transmission as the main way to get infected by HIV.

The students overestimated the abortion rate but underestimated the ratio of

abortions to live births. Except for the frequency of complaints, their

perception about domestic violence is realistic. 

Conclusions The results

reflect some well known gender stereotypes, reveal the predominant importance of

commitment and intimacy for young people’s love and sex life and disclose future

physicians’ need for information and teaching in this field.

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