New report explores drop in teen pregnancy rates

By Julie Griffiths on 19 July 2018 Research BPAS - British Pregnancy Advisory Service Teenage Pregnancy

A new report finds lifestyle factors, including a focus on time with family and low-levels of alcohol consumption, may have influenced the sharp decline in teenage pregnancy rates.

Since 2007 teenage pregnancy rates have fallen by 55% to their lowest ever level. The report Social media, SRE, and sensible drinking: understanding the dramatic decline in teenage pregnancy by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), explores the factors that may have contributed to this marked drop.

Key findings suggest that this generation appears family-oriented and more likely to place high value on time with their family than their friends, which may impact upon opportunities for sexual relationships.

Also, the study points out that this generation has greater access to more reliable contraceptive options, including fit and forget methods like the implant and IUD, although contraceptive use can be inconsistent.

The report highlights that social, romantic and sexual relationships are increasingly experienced online, and sexting is seen as an alternative as well as a precursor to intercourse.

Only one third of the 16 to 18 year olds surveyed (34%) said they had had sex, and overestimate the proportion in their peer group who have‎. 

Getting good grades or succeeding in their chosen career was the top priority for the young people surveyed, with 82% of respondents stating this was of high importance, compared to 68% who felt that spending time with their friends was of high importance. 

The findings reveal that the respondents drink significantly less alcohol and see excessive alcohol consumption as a dangerous activity that puts them at risk‎ of unwanted incidents. 

A significant minority (24%) report that they never drink alcohol, and of those who did drink, most did so at relatively low levels, with more than one quarter (28%) consuming one to two units on a typical occasion, and half (50%) consuming one to four units. 

Teenagers who consumed alcohol at lower levels were less likely to have engaged in sexual activity, suggesting changing drinking behaviours may have contributed to the decline in conceptions.

Teenage pregnancy was found to be highly stigmatised by young people themselves with low expectations of support – only a quarter of all young people surveyed (25%) expected a high level of support from the state if they became pregnant.

BPAS head of policy research Katherine O’Brien 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. 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.’

The full report can be found here.