Adolescent sexual health in Sweden


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Abstract

In Sweden, society’s attitudes towards teenage sexual relationships are liberal, and sexual and reproductive health issues are given high priority. Family and sex education has been taught in schools since the 1950s. The age of sexual consent is 15 years. Since 1975, abortion has been free on demand. Contraceptive counselling is free, easily available at family planning and youth health clinics. Screening for genital chlamydial infection is performed at these clinics, thus providing a “one stop shop” service. Condoms and oral contraception are available at low cost, emergency contraception is sold over the counter. Teenage childbearing is uncommon. However, sexual and reproductive health problems are on the increase among young people. During the 1990s, a period of economic stagnation in Sweden, schools have suffered budget cut backs. Sex education is taught less. Social segregation, school non-attendance, smoking, and drug use have increased. Teenage abortion rates have gone up, from 17/1000 in 1995 to 22.5/1000 in 2001. Genital chlamydial infections have increased from 14 000 cases in 1994 to 22 263 cases in 2001, 60% occurring among young people, and with the steepest increase among teenagers. Thus, a question of major concern is whether and how adolescent sexual behaviour has shifted towards more risky practices during the late 1990s.

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