Teenagers have stopped drinking and having sex, new study finds

Teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest for decades [Photo: Getty]
Teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest for decades [Photo: Getty]

Teenagers get a bad rap, with many being written off as binge-drinking, sex-having layabouts.

But turns out they would actually rather spend time online and socialise with their families than have sex, a new study suggests.

The survey, by the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS) of 1,000 16- to 18-year-olds, also found that teens are also drinking less alcohol and are more focussed on their education and future careers.

And it’s these factors that the BPAS believe could have had an impact on teenage pregnancy levels dropping to their lowest levels since records begun.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 18,076 conceptions to women aged under 18 in England and Wales in 2016, an 11 per cent decrease from 2015.

This equates to 18.9 conceptions per thousand women aged 15 to 17, compared to a rate of 47.1 per thousand in 1969.

The BPAS survey found that attitudes towards teenage pregnancy had seemingly changed. Four out of five young people felt there was now a stigma attached to becoming a teenage parent and young women no longer expected to be supported by the state or their family if they became pregnant.

While most said they always or usually used contraception when having sex, 14% said they “rarely” or “never” did. (that’s still 14% too many though right?)

Two-thirds of teenagers surveyed said they had never had sex.

Meanwhile, the majority of respondents (82 per cent) said getting good grades or succeeding in their chosen career was a priority, compared to around two thirds (68 per cent) who said the same of spending time with their mates.

Teenagers prefer spending time with their families and focussing on their studies than having sex [Photo: Getty]
Teenagers prefer spending time with their families and focussing on their studies than having sex [Photo: Getty]

As well as prioritising hard work over time with friends, the research also suggests teens are rejecting other stereotypical behaviours which have previously been linked to sexual activity, in particular “binge” drinking.

While almost a quarter (24%) said they never drink alcohol, of those who did drink, most did so at relatively low levels, with 28% consuming 1-2 units on a typical occasion, and half (50%) consuming 1-4 units.

When it comes to socialising with their friends, more than two thirds (70 per cent) said they speak to friends online four or more times a week, while less than a quarter (24 per cent) said they saw them that often in person.

The study suggested that these decisions may also have an impact on whether teenagers had sex.

Almost half of those who met friends in person four times a week said they had had sex before, compared to 29% who saw their friends less than once a month.

Around 15% of teenagers who saw their partners every day had not had sex with anyone, compared to 42% of those who saw their boyfriend or girlfriend once a month or less.

Commenting on the findings Katherine O’Brien, head of policy research at BPAS, said: “Our research reveals that this is a generation who are focused on their education, aware of economic challenges but determined to succeed regardless, and many of whom enjoy time with their families as much as with partners and friends. They seem to place significant value on responsibility and maturity, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption and sex.

“We believe that young people themselves are making different choices about the way they live their lives,” she continued.

“If we can maintain good access to contraceptive services for young people, there is every reason to hope this profound decline in teenage pregnancies is here to stay.”

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