Teenage sexual health snapshots

Teenage sexual health snapshots

04 Aug 2009

Four 'snapshots' of findings in the Fourth National Survey in the Sexual Health of Secondary School Students.

1) Young women’s knowledge of cervical cancer can be improved 

2) Teenage oral sex increases

3) Teens turn to mothers and teachers for sex info

4) Unwanted sex- teens feeling pressured to take the plunge

 



note sealed with a kiss, discarded in playground1. Young women’s knowledge of cervical cancer can be improved

A new report has uncovered that Year 12 girls are confused about the factors increasing the risk of cervical cancer, despite nearly 86% of the same age group reported being vaccinated.

Conducted by La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), The Fourth National Survey in the Sexual Health in Secondary School Students surveyed approximately 3,000 students from State, Catholic and Independent schools.

It is the first time researchers measured cervical cancer knowledge as part of this study. The report rated the respondents overall knowledge as inadequate.

However, despite the majority of young women having been vaccinated for cervical cancer they managed to answer only 2.6 questions right out of 6.

The results for young men where even lower, scoring just under a third of questions right (1.9 out of 6).

Also concerning was only 22% of female respondents understood that smoking could greatly increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.  

Cervical cancer is listed as Australia’s 18th biggest killer, yet remains the most preventable and curable of all cancers.  Since 1991 mortality rates have halved and regular pap smears can prevent the disease in 90% of cases, one point that increases the relevance of the findings.

Despite a relatively good understanding of other sexually transmissible diseases such as HIV, the lack of knowledge amongst students was not confined to cervical cancer.

The survey found that respondents had poor knowledge of common sexually transmissible diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, with 46% unaware that chlamydia can affect both males and females.

2. Teenage oral sex increases

A survey has found that nearly a third of teenagers have had oral sex with more than three partners.

La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society (ARCSHS) surveyed approximately 3000 year 10 and 12 students from State, Catholic, and Independent schools about sex.

‘Research shows that the majority of young people do not equate having oral sex but not intercourse as having sex with someone,’ says Professor Anthony Smith, the principal researcher and Deputy Director of ARCSHS.

‘And there are statistics to support the fact that many respondents who are engaging in oral sex are not having vaginal intercourse.’

Comparable data from the 2002 study, shows that the total percentage of respondents who had oral sex with 3 or more partners had risen to 27.7% in 2008 up from 19.2% in 2002.

Male respondents in year 12 reported the highest rate of ‘3 or more oral sex partners’ at 51%.  

The Fourth National Survey of Secondary Students and Sexual Health was last carried out in 2002.

Other key findings include one quarter of year 10 students and just over half of year 12 students had experienced sexual intercourse, with 30% reporting having sex with more than three people in the last year.  


3. Teens turn to mothers and teachers for sex info

Forget awkward family sex conversations involving the fabled ‘stork story’- today’s teenagers are having more sex, but are not embarrassed about asking their teachers and mothers for sex information, a new report has found.

Conducted by La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), The Fourth National Survey in the Sexual Health in Secondary School Students surveyed approximately 3000 students from State, Catholic and Independent schools.

A total of 88% of survey respondents had actively sought information about sex- and ranked mothers (56%), female friends (55%) and school education programs (49%) as the most used sources of information. The upshot of this is that the very same report ranked year 10 and 12’s knowledge of sexual health with an overall B+.

According to Professor Anthony Smith, the principal researcher and Deputy Director of ARCSHS, this is a clear indication that secondary schools are doing a good job in providing sexual health information and that changing family dynamics are promoting open and honest discussion.

‘We live in an increasingly sexualised society and sex education in schools is increasingly important to help young people make sense of this.  This report shows a strengthening of the role of teachers and parents a good source of sexual health information.’

Professor Smith says the fact that teenagers have well developed ‘help seeking skills’ is for a positive sign that teenagers are improving their sexual health literacy.  This will enable them to make safe decisions and avoid sexually transmissible diseases.

The data show what is taught in the sexual health curriculum is having an impact on the sexual health literacy in teenagers, and that  there is also a demand for youth-friendly health services to fill vital gaps in service and information.’  

Only 39% of students had got sexual health information from a doctor.

Professor Smith believes that on the whole sex education, is playing an increasing role in helping teenagers live safer sexual lives



4. Unwanted sex- teens feeling pressured to take the plunge

Some teenagers are feeling pressured into having sex a new report has found.

A La Trobe University study conducted by the Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society (ARCSHS) surveyed approximately 3,000 year 10 and 12 students from State, Catholic, and Independent schools.

The study reveals that 32% of respondents had experienced unwanted sex.

‘The most common reason was pressure from a partner, and the next was being drunk,’ said Professor Anthony Smith, principal researcher and Deputy Director of ARCSHS.

‘These findings reinforce the need for sex education to address the issues of alcohol use and sexual behaviour together.

Professor Smith says over the past six years, there has been a definite change in the sexual behaviour of year 12 female survey respondents.

‘When we compare the current data to the data collected in 2002, it is this cohort whose sexual behaviour has diversified most. The statistics also show that Year 12 females are having more sexual partners and are drinking 30% more,’ Professor Smith says.

Professor Smith says this report is a timely reminder that we live in a highly sexualised society.

‘Youth sexual culture is diversifying, and youth culture is becoming far more complex and we need to make sure that our school programs and health services are keeping up with the changes.’ 

 

To organise an interview with please contact:

Associate Professor, Anne Mitchell, Australian Research Centre of Sexual Health and Society.
03 9285 5124, 0412 513 665

a.mitchell@latrobe.edu.au


Professor Anthony Smith, Australian Research Centre of Sexual Health and Society.
0402 831 041

anthony.smith@latrobe.edu.au

Mikhaela Delahunty, Media & Communications Officer.
03 9479 5353
0411 268 946

m.delahunty@latrobe.edu.au

 

 

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