Depressive Symptoms and Sexual Health in University Students: The Role of Subscales in a Depression Screening Tool
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Depressive symptoms have been shown to be associated with sexual risk-taking among young adults; however, whether this association is underpinned by specific types of depressive symptoms has not been examined. Using cross-sectional survey data from undergraduate students attending eight universities in the Maritime Provinces in Canada in 2012, I tested the associations between four depressive symptom subscales (i.e., Negative Affect, Anhedonia, Somatic Symptoms, and Interpersonal Problems) and various sexual risk behaviours (e.g., unprotected sex, having multiple partners) Depressive symptoms in general were associated with many forms of sexual risk-taking among female students, with the association being underpinned by the Anhedonia and Somatic Symptom subscales. There were few associations observed among male students, although Somatic Symptoms were associated with having multiple partners in the past year. Depressive symptom subgroups, established using cluster analysis, were defined entirely by symptom severity, and broadly replicated existing cut-points on the measure used. The findings of this study suggest that the often-observed association between depressive symptoms and sexual risk-taking is attributable to specific symptoms of depression, rather than the overall construct. This discovery has the potential to inform further research attempting to discern the mechanism underlying the association between depressive symptoms and sexual health.