Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Condom Use Rises among Teens and Young Adults: Statistics Canada: Teens, Young Adults Using Condoms More

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Condom Use Rises among Teens and Young Adults: Statistics Canada: Teens, Young Adults Using Condoms More

Article excerpt

TORONTO - A new report suggests condom use is on the rise among sexually active teens and young adults, but experts say far too many young Canadians are still not protecting themselves against sexually transmitted infections.

The Statistics Canada report, released Wednesday, shows 68 per cent of sexually active Canadians aged 15 to 24 reported using condoms in 2009-2010, compared to 62 per cent in 2003.

"I think it's great news that we're seeing more kids, young adults using condoms," said Sarah Flicker, an associate professor of environmental studies at Toronto's York University, who specializes in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

"But it's a huge problem that almost three in 10 are not using protection when they're having sex," she said.

The agency's Canadian Community Health Survey for 2009-10 found that two-thirds of respondents aged 15 to 24 reported having had sexual intercourse at least once, a proportion that doesn't differ significantly from 2003.

While only 30 per cent of those aged 15 to 17 reported having had sex, the numbers rose to 68 per cent of 18- and 19-year-olds and 86 per cent of those aged 20 to 24.

Younger teens also were making forays into physical intimacy: in 2009-2010, nine per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds reported they first had sexual intercourse when they were under 15, and about 25 per cent had experienced intercourse for the first time at age 15 or 16. These results did not differ significantly from 2003.

"Sexually transmitted infections are highest among our youth and young adults, so the fact that we're seeing so many young people exploring their sexuality without using adequate protection is worrying," said Flicker, referring to the 32 per cent who reported not using condoms.

"So I see this as both good news and bad news."

The report also found that condom use appears to drop as a young person's age rises.

While 80 per cent of 15- to 18-year-olds reported using condoms, the figure dropped to 63 per cent among those 20 to 24.

Dr. Ashley Waddington, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Queen's University, suggests the decrease in use with age may relate to how condoms are viewed.

"I think in the younger age groups, they're more likely to depend on condoms for birth control, whereas the older age groups, once they're gone off to college, university, they may be living independently, they often seek out other forms of contraception," Waddington said from Kingston, Ont.

As younger Canadians move through their 20s, they tend to get involved in longer-term, more committed relationships and stop using condoms because they're monogamous and using other forms of birth control, she added.

Flicker said many young adults, as they get into more stable relationships, often don't see themselves at the same kind of risk for sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, as they might have at a younger age.

"Because I think a lot of young adults think about condoms as birth control rather than as an STI control," she said.

"One of the things we should be doing is teaching our kids and young adults that it's really important to think about using birth control and condoms. That's the best way to both prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections to keep them safe.

"I think a lot of the time they're most worried about pregnancy and they forget about the life-threatening consequences of sexually transmitted infections like HIV or untreated syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia. …

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