Sensation seeking, alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors among men receiving services at a clinic for sexually transmitted infections

J Stud Alcohol. 2003 Jul;64(4):564-9. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2003.64.564.


Objective: Risk-prone personality dispositions are associated with alcohol use and high-risk sexual behaviors; however, the nature of these associations and their implications for sexual risk reduction interventions are not clear. This study examined a conceptual model of sensation seeking personality and alcohol expectancies as correlates of sex-related alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors.

Method: Men (N = 350) seeking services from an innercity clinic that treats sexually transmitted infections (STI) completed measures of demographic characteristics, sensation seeking, alcohol outcome expectancies, alcohol use in sexual contexts and sexual behaviors, administered onsite at the clinic using audio-computer-assisted interviewing.

Results: Path analyses showed that sensation seeking was related to engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse with casual or one-time sex partners (i.e.,high-risk sex). Sensation seeking was also associated with stronger expectancies that alcohol use enhances sex. This association was related to alcohol use in sexual contexts which, in turn, was related to high-risk sex. Analyses also showed that alcohol outcome expectancies mediated the association between sensation seeking and alcohol use in sexual contexts.

Conclusions: Alcohol use plays important roles in risks for sexually transmitted infections, particularly among high sensation seekers. Cognitive restructuring of alcohol outcome expectancies may offer an in-road for developing HIV-STI risk reduction interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology*