Teen pregnancies in Britain hit all-time low

Children less likely to have taken illegal drugs, smoked or drank alcohol, survey finds

Teenagers in Britain today are less likely than their predecessors  to have taken illegal drugs, smoked, or taken alcohol, according to statistics just published.  Photograph: David Jones/PA

Teenagers in Britain today are less likely than their predecessors to have taken illegal drugs, smoked, or taken alcohol, according to statistics just published. Photograph: David Jones/PA

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 18:59

British teenage pregnancies have fallen to their lowest level since records began while teenage boys and girls are less likely than their predecessors to take drugs or drink alcohol, according to newly published figures.

Pregnancies among 15- to 17-year-old girls have fallen to 27.9 per 1,000 – a drop of just over 40 per cent on the numbers reported when records began to be collected in 1969.

However, nearly half of all pregnancies involving women aged under 18 (48.7 per cent) ended in a legal abortion in 2012, compared to just one in eight 45 years ago, the Office of National Statistics reported yesterday.

The northeast of England has the highest rates of pregnancy – 35.5 per 1,000 women aged 15-17, compared with the east and southeast of England where 23.2 per 1,000 women aged 15-17 became pregnant.

Pregnancy rates – which are strongly linked to poverty – among teenage girls are falling sharply even in some of Britain’s most deprived areas. In Middlesbrough, numbers have dropped by a sixth in 15 years. In Burnley, Lancashire, the fall has been even more dramatic, from 82.3 per 1,000 girls in 1998 – the first full year of the Labour government – to 50.1 per 1,000 two years ago.

Since 1990 conception rates among those over 30 has risen, while rates among women aged under 25 have fallen, said the Office of National Statistics.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 5,000 11- to 15-year-olds has shown that children are less likely to have taken illegal drugs, smoked, or taken alcohol. One in six said they had taken drugs; 22 per cent of children said they had smoked once.

Just three in every 100 11- to 15-year-olds had smoked at least one cigarette a week, compared to 9 per cent in 2003, noted the Health and Social Care Information Centre survey.

Children are also more likely to be sober. In 2013, 9 per cent said they had drunk alcohol in the past week, compared with a quarter in 2003.