Objectives: Sexual and mental health disparities exist in the Northwest Territories (NWT) compared with other Canadian regions. STI rates are 10-fold higher, and youth suicide rates double the Canadian average. Scant research has examined associations between mental and sexual health among youth in the NWT. The study objective was to explore pathways from depression to multiple sex partners (MSP) among young women in the NWT, Canada. Methods: We implemented a cross-sectional survey in 2015-2016 with a venue-based recruitment sample of young women aged 13-17 attending secondary schools in 17 NWT communities. We conducted path analysis to test a conceptual model examining associations between depression and a history of MSP, examining substance use and peer support as mediators. Results: Participants (n=199; mean age: 13.8, SD: 1.27) mostly identified were Indigenous (n=154; 77.4%) and one-fifth (n=39; 20.5%) were sexually diverse/non-heterosexual. Almost two-thirds (n=119; 63.3%) reported depression symptoms. One-quarter (n=53; 26.6%) were currently dating, and 16.1% (n=32) reported a lifetime history of >1 sex partner (classified as having MSP). There was no direct effect between depression and MSP (β=0.189, p=0.087, 95% CI 0.046 to 0.260). Depression had a direct effect on substance use (β=0.023, p<0.050, 95% CI 0.118 to 0.500), and an indirect effect on MSP through substance use (β=0.498, SE=0.10, p<0.001, 95% CI 0.141 to 0.280). Depression was associated with lower peer support (β=-0.168, p<0.010, 95% CI -0.126 to 0.280); peer support was not associated with MSP (β=-0.158, p=0.130, 95% CI -0.126 to 0.001). Conclusion: This research is among the first to identify mental health factors associated with STI vulnerability among young women in the NWT. Findings demonstrate the importance of addressing depression and substance use in sexual health interventions in Northern contexts.
- American native continental ancestry group
- sexually transmitted diseases
- substance-related disorders
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases