Social determinants in the sexual health of adolescent Aboriginal Australians: a systematic review



Publication Details

MacPhail, C. & McKay, K. (2018). Social determinants in the sexual health of adolescent Aboriginal Australians: a systematic review. Health and Social Care in the Community, 26 (2), 131-146.


While research indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents may be at increased risk of some sexually transmitted infections, there is limited information about factors that may place these young people at more risk of adverse sexual health than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Current research has tended to focus on surveillance-type data, but there is an increasing need to understand social determinants of sexual health risk. This systematic review assessed the evidence of social determinants impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents' sexual health in Australia. Published, English-language literature was searched across key databases from 2003 to 2015. Fourteen studies were included in the qualitative synthesis. Findings suggest that social determinants such as access to healthcare, poverty, substance use, educational disadvantage, sociocultural context, gender inequalities, status and identity, and social disadvantage impacted on Indigenous adolescents' sexual behaviours and sexual health risk. Evidence from the literature included in the review suggests that peer education may be an acceptable and appropriate approach for addressing such issues. There remains a need for programmes and services to be community-developed and community-led, thus ensuring cultural appropriateness and relevance. However, there is also a significant need for such programmes to be effectively and rigorously evaluated with data that goes beyond surveillance, and seeks to unpack how sexual norms are experienced by Indigenous adolescents, particularly outside of remote Australia - and how these experiences act as either risk or protective factors to good sexual health and positive social and emotional well-being.

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