MORE YOUNG people are waiting until they are older to have sex for the first time and more are using contraception, a survey has found.
The number of people receiving sex education has also increased, but fewer parents talk to their children about sex at home.
There has also been an increase in the number of crisis pregnancies and abortions.
The Irish Contraceptive and Crisis Pregnancy Study 2010, published yesterday, also found that adults who had sex education at home or in school were 1½ times more likely to use contraception the first time they had sex compared with those who got education from other sources.
The director of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, said crisis pregnancy was still an issue for women in Ireland, though perhaps for different reasons than in the past.
The main reason women defined their pregnancy as crisis was because they were unplanned. But more young women in the 2010 survey said they viewed their pregnancy as a crisis because they were “too young”, even though most of these women were in their mid-20s.
“This may be indicative of cultural changes regarding the most desirable age to have a baby,” she said.
The proportion of women who said the pregnancy was a crisis for financial reasons also increased from 2 per cent in 2003 to 9 per cent in 2010.
The study, part of the Health Service Executive Crisis Pregnancy Programme, surveyed over 3,000 men and women between 18 and 45 years old. The results were compared to a 2003 survey.
Compared with 2003, the average age of those having sex for the first time remained unchanged for men, at 17, and had risen slightly for women, to 18.
Some 15 per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds said they had never had sex, up from 13 per cent in 2003.
The results suggested “a higher proportion of younger people may now be waiting to have sex until they are older”, the report said.
The report found the consistent use of contraception among 18- to 25-year-olds is high and increasing compared to 2003.
Some 90 per cent in this age group said they used contraception the first time they had sex compared to 80 per cent of 26- to 35-year-olds. More people, 86 per cent, in this group had received sex education than older people.
The quality of the sex education had also improved. But the survey found fewer parents talk to their children about sex. Some 70 per cent of parents said they had spoken to their child about sex and related matters in 2010 compared to 82 per cent in 2003.
It also found a “vulnerable group” of young people, 17 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men, had had sex at 16 or younger. This group were more likely to have left school early.
The survey also found that one in three women in Ireland, in 2010, had experienced a crisis pregnancy, up from 28 per cent in 2003.
Some 62 per cent of the women who had crisis pregnancies had their babies, down by 10 per cent on 2003, and 21 per cent had abortions, up from 15 per cent. Some 14 per cent of the pregnancies ended in miscarriage, up from 8 per cent, and 1 per cent of babies were adopted.
The overall abortion rate for all pregnancies was 4 per cent, twice that in 2003. But when women who were not domiciled in Ireland at the time of their abortion were taken out of the figures, the level remained at 2 per cent.
90%of 18 to 25-year-olds used contraception the first time they had sex
70%of parents talk to their children about sex
18the average age of first sex for women
17the average age of first sex for men
15%of 18 to 25-year-olds have never had sex
1 in 3 women have experienced a crisis pregnancy