New Sexual Health Study Focuses on Young Europeans

There are many definitions of sex and relationships education (SRE) and many purposes attributed to any SRE program. However it seems clear that any effective SRE course should inform about the mechanics of sex; how to control your own destiny by preventing unplanned pregnancy and reduce the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and how sex can fit in with relationships.

But while there are many approaches to delivering SRE across Europe, the test is whether the programs delivered have positively impacted on young people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP).

The Durex Network has examined this subject in our latest study which has just been released. They won’t know unless we tell (click for more information and to download the report) them looks at young people in 15 countries across Europe, and provides a strong indication of the potential way forward for SRE programs in the future by highlighting a number of significant issues.

The research was conducted online and targeted 15 to 20 year-olds in nine Western European countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands and the UK – and six in Eastern Europe – Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey. More than 15,000 young people took part.

The survey looked at differences in levels of KAP and whether these can be explained by such factors as age, gender, age at first sex education, country or region of residence, source of sex education or relationship status.

The results highlighted the high degree of ignorance of  STIs across Europe. In Eastern Europe, for example, 36 per cent of people wrongly believed they could catch an STI from a toilet seat, while in Western Europe almost a quarter (24 per cent) thought this was the case. Looking at Europe as a whole, 28 per cent of respondents believed they could catch STIs that way, with Turkey (44 per cent) having the highest figure and France (18 per cent) the lowest.

Western European countries had higher KAP scores than Eastern European countries and young men had significantly lower KAP in all the countries surveyed compared to young females.

The results also showed worrying complacency when it came to young people’s perceived chances of them catching STIs. German respondents showed the greatest awareness, but even here as many as 45 per cent felt they were at little or no risk, with the proportion rising to 84 per cent in Spain and 86 per cent in Poland.

The results are being released across Europe to help inform those dealing with sex education policies, and I’ll update this blog about how the report is received in different countries.

Peter Roach is Vice President of the Durex Network.



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