Key facts on young people and reproductive health

Data on the sexual behaviour of young people are, for obvious reasons, unreliable and difficult to obtain. In addition, collecting comparable data that can be broken down by age at country level and developing common indicators are difficult tasks.

The following information comes from "A snapshot of the health of young people in Europe", WHO/Europe 2009, which draws information from the Health Behaviour of School-aged Children (HBSC) study, covering 44 countries in and beyond Europe.

  • Evidence suggests the rates of adolescent pregnancy have been decreasing in the last 20 years.
  • The gender gap between age at first sexual intercourse is narrowing in the European Union (EU).
  • Rates of first sexual intercourse for girls are highest in northern Europe, and relatively low in southern and western Europe. Experience of sexual intercourse as reported by 15-year-olds varies considerably across countries, from 12% in Slovakia to 38% in Bulgaria and Denmark.
  • Among 15-year-olds, a third or more have experienced sexual intercourse in England, Scotland and Ukraine, compared to about a fifth in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • Condoms are widely used, more by males than females, and more than before. Condoms are the most commonly used form of contraception among 15-year-olds at their last sexual intercourse, with wide variations between countries (from 65% in Sweden to 89% in Spain).
  • Among 15-year-olds, the contraceptive pill is more commonly used in western Europe.
  • Pregnancies among young women vary widely across the European Region, ranging from about 12 per 1000 women aged 15−19 in Italy to about 59 in Bulgaria. Lower levels are found in western and central Europe (except in the United Kingdom), while moderate rates (40−60 per 1000) are found in eastern Europe.