Background: Although it is often assumed that drinking alcohol interferes with condom use, studies on this topic have used several different methods and have yielded inconsistent findings. By examining drinking and condom use in specific sexual encounters, the role of alcohol in influencing unprotected intercourse is targeted.
Goal: The goal of the study was to assess the relationship of alcohol use and condom use in discrete sexual encounters using meta-analysis.
Study design: Studies in the literature were identified by computerized searches of MEDLINE and PsycINFO and hand searches of reference lists. Summary odds ratios were calculated for all analyses and for subgroups formed according to type of sexual encounter (first, most recent, most recent with a new sexual partner).
Results: The association of alcohol use and condom use varied by type of sexual encounter: drinking at first intercourse was associated with decreased condom use (odds ratio [OR], 0.54; 95% CI, 0.44-0.66), but drinking was unrelated to condom use in recent sexual encounters (OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.89-1.21) and in recent encounters with new partners (OR, 1.1; 95% CI, 0.92-1.32).
Conclusion: Drinking is not necessarily linked to unprotected intercourse; the relationship between alcohol use and unprotected sex depends on context and sexual experience of the partners.