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More adventurous than the average bear

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Youth in Singapore and Worldwide and Contraception

"The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work." - Richard Bach


Bayer Healthcare released a study to mark World Contraception Day. While people are excited about Singaporeans thinking Coke is a good contraceptive, I decided to read the original report.

Choice bits:

i) Percentage of young people surveyed who have had sexual intercourse:

Argentina 52%
Australia 63%
Brazil 57%
Chile 75%
China 41%
Colombia 40%
Estonia 52%
France 66%
Great Britain 61%
India 28%
Indonesia 36%
Italy 55%
Kenya 61%
Korea 14%
Latvia 58%
Lithuania 35%
Mexico 57%
Norway 50%
Poland 57%
Russia 80%
Singapore 18%
Slovenia 71%
Sweden 66%
Thailand 29%
Turkey 57%
Uganda 50%
US 82%
Venezuela 67%

ii) "Although a significant number of teenagers surveyed in Russia (80%), Venezuela (67%) and France (66%) are already sexually active, a relatively low number of them have had unprotected sex with a new partner (34%, 40% and 40% respectively). The opposite is true in Thailand, Korea and China which ranked relatively low in terms of sexual activity (29%, 14% and 41% respectively) but highly in terms of the percentage of sexually active young people who have had sex without contraception with a new partner (62%, 52% and 58% respectively)."

Young East/Southeast Asians seem to be frigid/reserved, but once they open up they go all the way.

iii) "The results from the 2010 WCD survey showed us that many young people are prioritising personal hygiene including showering, waxing and applying perfume (Asia Pacific 41%, Europe 44%, Latin America 45% and the USA 48%) as more important than contraception (Asia Pacific 21%, Europe 25%, Latin America 32%, USA 24%) when preparing for a first date that may lead to sex which could go some way to explaining the high levels of unprotected sex with new partners"

iv) "A dislike of using contraception was the second most frequently given reason across Europe, with a quarter of teenagers in Latvia (26%) and Italy (24%) agreeing with this statement. As many as 19% of Thai respondents and 18% of respondents in Singapore stated this was a problem when they had had unprotected sex with a new partner.
Overall across regions, this reason was most commonly cited by men"

Women seem to dislike contraception more than men do, which is counter-intuitive ("Ribbed for her pleasure, not yours").

v) 12% of Singaporeans think contraception is not "cool".

vi) "In Europe and the US, the main reason that respondents gave for not being able to access contraception was that they had run out"

vii) In all regions, the average age of first sex was 17 - except in the 3 African countries of Egypt and Kenya where it was 20. However, the African countries (70%) were the highest region after the US (82%) for percentage of respondents who'd had sex. The corresponding figures are Asia-Pacific (33%), Europe (59%) and Latin America (58%).

The Asia-Pacific lags behind noticeably.

viii) Europeans are smart about having sex - though 59% of them have done it, only 30% know a close friend or family member who's had an unplanned pregnancy. This is the best sex:unplanned pregnancy ratio in all the 5 regions.

ix) "Young people in Great Britain appear to be particularly well informed about which methods of contraception are effective at preventing an unplanned pregnancy, with 98% indicating that condoms are an effective method and 94% stating that taking the pill is effective... However, Great Britain still has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Western Europe, which indicates that although young people are able to easily access accurate information, they are not necessarily acting on it."

x) "When questioned on whether there was anyone that they would not trust to provide accurate and unbiased information on contraceptive options, with the exception of Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Indonesia, Singapore, the most frequently mentioned source given in all countries is a religious or spiritual adviser."

This has interesting implications for Focus on the Family.

xi) "School-based sex education delays rather than hastens the onset of sexual activity"

Given that Focus on the Family trotted out its usual line about comprehensive sex education not working, I wonder whether they read the report before commenting.

xii) "Every £1 invested in contraception saves the UK national health service £11 (GBP) plus additional welfare costs, which is a powerful economic argument for maintaining contraceptive services... Teen childbearing in the United States costs taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $9.1 billion annually"

xiii) I am no longer a "young person" >:(

There also seems to be serious misreporting, with Channelnewsasia,STOMP and Today all reporting that

- "Eight in 10 respondents in Singapore have reported not using any form of contraception when having sex with a new partner" (but then the report says that "Across all regions, the largest group of young people, who said they had had sex with a new partner, without using contraception, was in Thailand (62%)")
- The study surveyed young adults aged 20-35 (the report says the world sample was 15-24, and the Singaporean sample was 16-19)

Meanwhile, STOMP claims that the study took one day - the day before the STOMP article came out (a moment's reflection will reveal that this is ludicrous)

Someone floated the possibility that there was another study, but I find the existence of two studies commissioned by Bayer Healthcare on the same topic and released around the same time extremely unlikely, to say the least.

STOMP also reports one girl saying that "I think the pill is best because a lot of my girlfriends have said Singapore men have a problem with wearing condoms". One should just use Japanese or Chinese condoms!

MFM suggested that Korea and Singapore leading the tables for least number of young people having sex was due to the number of hours worked in each country (respectively people in each worked the most and the second most hours in the world, or something like that).

I was skeptical of this theory, though working culture possibly filters down to youth culture in some way.

However I decided to torture some data to verify this.

There is a -0.43 correlation coefficient, i.e. the more hours people work, the lower the percentage of young people who'd bonked

Addendum: Here is the scatterplot at Jian's request

I couldn't be bothered to throw GDP into the mix, but I'm not sure it'd change the analysis much. I'll throw it in and be more rigorous with the hours worked data if someone wants to pay me enough to do bo liao analyses that I can quit my day job.

Data on hours worked came from the International Labour Organization's (ILO) LABORSTA labour statistics database. As far as possible, I used hours actually worked by the total population in 2005.

Performing this exercise once again brought home the problems one has when working with international datasets, since data isn't always comparable (for example India doesn't have an aggregate figure so I used Manufacturing).

Main source for this blog post: Clueless or clued-up: Your right to be informed about Contraception
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