Sexual Health Experiences Among High School Students With Disabilities

Willi Horner-Johnson, Angela Senders, César Higgins Tejera, Marjorie G. McGee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the sexual experiences of adolescents with and without disabilities. Methods: Data were from the 2015 and 2017 Oregon Healthy Teens survey, a state-wide representative sample of 11th grade students. We compared teens with and without disabilities on whether or not they had ever had sexual intercourse (N = 20,812). Among those who had ever had intercourse (N = 8,311), we used multivariable Poisson regression to measure the association between disability status and the prevalence of five sexual experiences. Results: After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, the prevalence of ever having had intercourse was 25% higher among teens with disabilities than among those without (adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR] 1.25, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.20–1.30). Among students who had had intercourse, the prevalence of having had intercourse before the age of 15 years (aPR 1.25, 95% CI: 1.14–1.47), having ≥ 2 lifetime sexual partners (aPR 1.13, 95% CI 1.07–1.19), having ≥ 2 sexual partners in the previous three months (aPR 1.23, 95% CI: 1.00–1.52), having used alcohol and/or drugs at the last intercourse (aPR 1.28, 95% CI: 1.10–1.48), and having condomless sex at the last intercourse (aPR 1.17, 95% CI: 1.08–1.27) was higher among students with disabilities than among students without disabilities. After accounting for sexual abuse, each of these associations was attenuated and most were no longer significant. Conclusions: Youth with disabilities are sexually active. Findings highlight the need for increased attention to sexual abuse prevention, sexual health promotion, and risk reduction efforts for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-262
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Child abuse
  • Disabled persons
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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