(Photo:Flickr/Jeremy Vandel)

College students might not be “hooking up” nearly as much as their talk would suggest, but University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers say the fact that this kind of talk has become commonplace could be leading to an increase in risky sexual behaviors.

Ninety-four percent of the students polled were familiar with the phrase “hooking up” to describe sexual activity, according to a UNL press release, and 84 percent had spoken with fellow students about their hookups in the previous four months. Although 54 percent reported hooking up during the school year (with 37 percent reporting two or more hookups), many of the students polled thought they engaged in fewer hookups than the “typical student.” Ninety percent of the students believed that being involved in two hookups or more represented the average number.

The study also found that the more the students talked about  “non-relationship sex” around their college friends, the more likely they were to engage in hookups.

All of these factors can pressure students toward more risky sexual behavior, said author Amanda Holman.

“Students with strong ties to peers and frequent peer conversation about sex were more strongly related to participation in hookups and more favorable attitudes toward hooking up,” she said.

According to the study, “Students who engage in hookups may find encouragement in the belief that the practice is widespread, as suggested by the observed association between self-reported hookups and the estimated hookups for the average student.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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