Teen sex habits revealed in survey

NEW YORK – A “substantial minority” of 15-year-olds have had sexual intercourse, according results of a survey of 33,943 adolescents from 24 European and North American countries.

In additions, 13.2 percent of the sexually active 15-year-olds surveyed reported that they used no form of contraception during their last intercourse episode.

The good news, Dr. Emmanuelle Godeau, from Service Mdical du Rectorat de Toulouse, France, told Reuters Health, is that among these sexually active teenagers, the vast majority (82 percent) is acting responsibly, “protecting themselves and their partner against pregnancy with age-appropriate contraception (condoms and/or pills).”

“Our results — in line with the rest of the scientific literature in this domain — show that, on the whole, teenagers are well protected against pregnancy but that there is room to improve the promotion of responsible sexual behavior among adolescents in several countries,” Godeau said.

The percentages of 15-year-olds who said they had sexual intercourse varied by country ranging from 14.1 percent in Croatia to 37.6 percent in England. Boys were more apt than girls to report having had sexual intercourse.

Condoms were the most popular means of contraception reported by young teens; however, condom use varied widely between countries, ranging from 53 percent in Sweden to 89 percent in Greece.

“Condoms, even if not the best method to prevent pregnancy with a first-year failure rate of 14.5 percent for those younger than 18 years when used alone, have the advantage of also protecting against sexually transmitted diseases,” note Godeau and colleagues in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Contraceptive pills were the second most common contraception method used by the teens surveyed, again with wide variation between countries, from 3 percent in Croatia and Greece to 48 percent in Flemish Belgium and the Netherlands.

The dual use of the pill and condoms was also relatively frequent, ranging from 2.6 percent in Croatia to 28.8 percent in Canada. The use of the pill was most common in northern and western Europe.