The Role of Unrealistic Optimism in College Student Risky Sexual Behavior

Susanna V. Lopez, Thad R. Leffingwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between unrealistic optimism (UO) and risky sexual behavior (RSB) and related consequences in a college student sample. Participants believed they had significantly lower personal risk of engagement in alcohol-related sexual activity, unintended pregnancy, and STIs than the average college student (ps < 0.01). Compared to national data, participants significantly underestimated likelihood of HPV and sexual engagement with four or more partners in the next year (ps < 0.01). Findings support evidence of UO relating to RSB-related consequences, indicating need for improvements in sexual health education and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-217
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Sexuality Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2020


  • Alcohol
  • college students
  • risky sexual behavior
  • unrealistic optimism


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