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Sexual Health Center

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International Teen Sex Survey

Sexual Experience Reported by 14% to 38% of 15-Year-Olds in Europe/Canada
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan 11, 2008 -- England has the highest percentage of sexually experienced 15-year-olds in Europe and Canada, a 24-nation survey shows.

Emmanuelle Godeau, MD, PhD, of the University of Toulouse, France, and colleagues asked some 34,000 15-year-olds about their sexual activities as part of a youth health survey. They collected the data in 2002 from students in 23 European countries and Canada.

Generally speaking, 15-year-olds from Western Europe were more likely to report sexual intercourse than those in Eastern Europe. When they did, they also were more likely to report use of effective birth control -- either oral contraceptives or condoms.

Other findings:

  • Rates of sexual experience ranged from 38% in England to 14% in Croatia.
  • Overall, 82% of sexually experienced teens used condoms and/or birth control pills.
  • Condom use ranged from 53% of sexually active teens in Sweden to 89% in Greece.
  • Birth control pill use ranged from 3% in Croatia to 48% in the Netherlands and in Flemish-speaking Belgium.
  • Surprisingly, a large proportion of girls and boys -- 16% overall -- used both condoms and birth control pills when they last had sexual intercourse.
  • In the seven nations that asked about emergency contraception, 10% of teens who did not use condoms or birth control pills used the morning-after pill after their most recent sexual episode.
  • Withdrawal -- a difficult method of birth control pill with a 25% failure rate among teens -- was the birth control method used by a fifth of students not using other forms of birth control.

In an editorial accompanying the study, John Santelli, MD, MPH, of New York's Columbia University notes that surveys of U.S. teens show they are less likely than Western European teens to use effective methods of birth control.

Santelli and colleagues suggest that normalization of teen sexual behavior -- coupled with an emphasis on personal responsibility -- is linked to more use of birth control and lower pregnancy rates in teens.

The Godeau study and the Santelli editorial appear in the January issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

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