10% of sexually active 17-18 year-olds had sex without a condom

One in three 17-18 year-olds have had sexual intercourse and one in 10 of those teenagers said they had never used a condom.

Almost a third of the 17-18 year-olds have used cannabis and 17% of them admitted to having self-harmed in the past, 11% in the last year.

The figures are contained in the ESRI’s review of the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ national study of children.

The reviews will be launched at the Growing Up in Ireland annual research conference in Croke Park later today.

The 6,000 17-18 year-olds who feature have been participating in the study since 2007 and this round focused on four aspects of their lives: education and early work experiences; health, weight, physical activity and diet; life satisfaction, relationships and mental health; and risky health behaviours and sexual activity. It is in the latter area that the details of the young people’s drug, alcohol, tobacco and sexual activities are revealed.

The survey found 40% of respondents aged 17/18 have had oral sex and 33% have had sexual intercourse.

It found that while 56% who had engaged in full sex had always used a condom, “a sizeable majority” of 11% said they never used one. The survey authors said males (45%) were more likely to report being sexually active than females (39%).

The survey revealed one in five of the 17-18 year olds were overweight and 8% were obese. It also found weight problems appeared to persist — 65% of those who had been obese when surveyed at 13 years were still classified as obese four years later. As well as the 17% of participants admitting they had self-harmed in the past, one in 10 reported they had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or both by a medical professional.

Almost half of the 17-18 year-olds had never smoked, but only one in 10 had never consumed alcohol; 40% said they now drank two to four times monthly. The survey authors said those who had consumed more than a few sips of alcohol at 13 were more likely to be frequent drinkers by 17 or 18.

With tobacco, 31% of those who had smoked a cigarette by 13, were smoking daily by the time they reached 17/18.

When asked if they had ever used cannabis 69% of 17/18-year-olds said they had not; 17% used it ‘once or twice’; 4% said they ‘used to use it but not now’, 8% said they used it ‘occasionally’ and 2% said they used it ‘more than once a week’.

James Williams, research professor with the ESRI, said a significant finding from the study was the importance of early interventions in behaviours compromising health.

“Drinking alcohol or smoking at an early age is associated with more frequent and higher levels of consumption by the age of 17/ 18, which points to clear ways we can help teenagers to make healthier choices,” he said.


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