Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

A Global Perspective on Teen Sex Habits

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There is some good news about teen sex habits. The Journal of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine published a study and editorial suggesting that teenage sexual activity does not always have serious short-term and long-term health-compromising consequences, particularly in countries that are strongly accepting of teenage contraceptive use and are insuring adolescent access to contraception and sex education. Lest you are wondering, the authors were NOT talking about the United States.

The study reports data collected in 2002 from 33,943 adolescents from 24 European and North American countries, the majority of whom are protected against pregnancy (about 82%). The percentage of 15-year-olds who reported having had sexual intercourse ranged from 14% in Croatia to 38% in England, with boys reporting more sexual activity than girls. Condoms were the most popular contraceptive method and use varied between 53% in Sweden to 89% in Greece. Bummer for them though, condoms have a first-year failure rate of about 15% for teenagers when used alone, but on the bright side, they do help protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Contraceptive pills were the second most common contraception method used and ranged from 3% in Croatia to 48% in Flemish Belgium and the Netherlands. Dual use - using condoms and the pill - which is the best way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection was only reported by 29% of teens in Canada - GO CANADA!

These results leave a lot of room for improvement though and suggest that there is still a high proportion of poorly protected and unprotected sexual activity going on and we can do a better job developing policies that encourage contraceptive use among sexually active youth.

Photo credit: sylvar
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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