Canada News Wire

Canadian youth are some of the world's youngest sexually active people

Survey identifies international need for increased sex education as one in four global youth know someone of own age with HIV or other STDs

TORONTO, Sept. 21 /CNW/ - Canadian youth are among the world's youngest sexually active people yet many do not practice safer sex, according to the results of the 1999 Durex(R) Global Sex Survey -- A Youth Perspective, released today -- an international study of the sexual attitudes and behaviour of global youth.

Pregnancy, HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) rank as the most prominent sexual fears for 70% of 16-21 year-olds across the globe. Despite this, safer sex and protection messages aren't registering with today's youth. While 62% said a condom was their main method of contraception and nearly everyone (92%) recognized that condoms protect against HIV infection, 43% of the global sample still admitted they didn't use a condom for first time sex. First hand awareness of the risks involved, coupled with the fact that 18% of the respondents didn't know that a condom protects against pregnancy, indicates the necessity for improved sex education on a global scale.

The fourth annual 1999 Durex Global Sex Survey -- A Youth Perspective focuses exclusively on the sexual attitudes and behaviour of global youth, questioning men and women between 16-21 years of age across 14 countries, and lifting the lid on what youth think about sex and related issues. For the first time this year, the survey takes into account the views of non-sexually active individuals as well as those who are sexually active.

``With young Canadians becoming increasingly sexually active at an earlier age, and not always using contraception, despite knowing the risks involved, there is an increasing necessity for parents and schools to strengthen sex education and promote safer sex,'' says Sonya Agnew, director of marketing for Durex(R) Canada. ``The goal of Durex(R) Canada is to highlight the issues that face today's youth, such as the heightened risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and to encourage young people to use protection such as condoms.''

Youth are losing their virginity at a younger age

The average age at which young people are losing their virginity is dropping at a dramatic rate. Canada joins the United States in having the youngest sexually active population, with youth losing their virginity at an average age of 15, almost a full year younger than the global average age of 15.9. Ranking second is the UK at age 15.3, followed by Germany at age 15.6 and France at age 15.8. The difference in age of first sex between 21 year-old respondents (16.7 years) and 16 year old respondents (14.3 years) is a staggering 2.4 years.

The survey also shows that on a global basis, a third of respondents age 16-21 are still virgins. A high proportion of female virgins (59%) compared to male virgins (31%) said they did not feel ready for sex. Globally, 27% of virgins felt that they were ready to have sex, but had not yet met the right person. In addition, 9% of virgins said they felt ready for sex but hadn't yet had the opportunity.

It wouldn't happen to me!

Not only are youth having sex at a younger age, a high proportion seem to subscribe to the ``it wouldn't happen to me'' attitude. The 1999 results indicate that youth around the world are not planning for safer sex. A staggering 26% of Canadian respondents did not use a contraceptive for their first sexual experience and 47% of them said the reason was contraceptives were not available. Globally, 28% of the sexually active respondents did not use a condom or other contraceptive for their first sexual experience. France, Germany and Spain rank the highest for condom usage for first time sex, and Taiwan, Singapore and Mexico ranked the lowest with 49% of the respondents using no form of contraception.

A world in need of protection

According to this year's survey, globally, one in four young people claim to know someone their own age with HIV/STDs. In Canada, 62% of respondents know someone who had an abortion, 76% know someone who had an unintended pregnancy, 10% know someone with HIV and 34% know someone with STDs. The United States tops the tables with an astounding 79% knowing someone who has had an unintended pregnancy, while 61% know someone who has had an abortion, 42% know someone who has an STD and 16% know someone with HIV.

Heard it through the grapevine

On a global scale, young people cite friends as their main source of information related to sex. Over a quarter (28%) said their first sex advice came from friends and 30% said they received the most information from their peers. On the contrary, parents were voted top of the list (28%) as the preferred source, ahead of friends and school, which highlights an opportunity for parents to improve sex education with their children.

Women in the driver's seat

Survey results suggest that young women are challenging traditional female stereotypes when it comes to sex. Around the world women are not only claiming to have sex more often than men but are also more selfish in bed when it comes to enjoying sex. Forty-four per cent of females confirm that they consider satisfying themselves more important than satisfying their partner, compared to 32% of men who put themselves first. Young women are also getting bolder when it comes to bringing up the topic of sex with someone new. On a global scale 26% now expect to make the first sexual move and 27% said they preferred it that way. Young women also claim to have sex more often than young men with an average of 104 times a year compared to men's average of 93 times a year.

Sexual fears don't matter

Even though youth have sexual fears, the most common being health related, it is not enough to influence the lifestyle or sexual behaviour of some youth. Globally, fear of HIV and other STDs has the most impact with 16-21 year-olds, regardless of gender and sexually active status. Nearly half (45%) said this was their biggest fear, with men showing slightly more concern than women.

Pregnancy comes in second with 32% of young women and 18% of young men saying the prospect of parenthood (or abortion) was what worried them most about sex. Staggering is that 32% of all respondents reported no influence on the way they behave as a result of the threat of HIV. Thirty-five per cent of Canadians responded that there was no influence of the threat of HIV on their behaviour which is above the global average and leaving only 21% of respondents using a condom every time.

Younger equals more sex?

The age that youth experience sex for the first time, where they live and their current age, are all key factors in the frequency of sex among youth. Young adults who had sex for their first time at age 13 or under have sex an average of 153 times per year, while those who had sex for their first time at age 16 have sex an average of 86 times per year. Results also indicate a huge leap between 17 and 18 year-olds, when frequency increases from 79 times a year at age 17 up to 102 times at age 18. In addition, results indicate that youth who live at home with their parents have sex less frequently (86 times a year) compared to an average of 171 times a year for youth who live with a friend or partner. Canadian youth are ranked third around the world with having sex an average of 113 times a year which is above the global average of 98 times per year. The UK leads the way with 133 times per year, followed by the United States (128 times/year).

The pressure is on for today's youth

Over half of the sexually active young adults surveyed (51%) would expect to sleep with their new partner within the first month of meeting, compared to 13% of virgins, who are more likely to wait for six months or until after marriage. Twenty-eight per cent of sexually active and non-sexually active Canadians expect sex in the first month of dating, 13% expect to wait until after 6 months and 9% expect to wait until marriage. UK and France expect sex the soonest, with over half in both countries expecting sex with a new partner before the end of their first month together. On the other side of the spectrum, 43% of the Taiwanese respondents say they would wait for their wedding day.

Infidelity high at a young age

Youth around the world are having sex with several partners by the time they reach age 21 and sometimes with multiple partners. Canadian youth (16-21 year-olds) rank third, with an average of 5.5 partners by age 21. Thais are the most unfaithful nation around the world (53%), the United States not far behind at 43% and Canada with 32%. Also note worthy, 34% of the sexually active respondents said they had experienced a sexual relationship with more than one person at a time.

Durex(R), the only global condom brand and the world's number one selling brand, commissioned the research as an international benchmark on youth's sexual attitudes and behaviour. The Canadian Durex(R) brands are Sheik*, Ramses* Durex(R) Comfort, Durex(R) Tropical, Durex(R) Gold and Durex(R)Topaz condoms. The Durex(R) Global Survey -- A Youth Perspective was conducted in Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, UK and the USA. The award-winning Durex(R) website is located at www.durex.com.

For further information: For more information and interviews, contact: Shari Cogan, GCI Group, Tel: (416) 486-7272, E-mail: scogan@gcigroup.com; Toni Peet, GCI Group, Tel: (416) 486-7224, E-mail: tpeet@gcigroup.com