Irish Times – Alcohol the key indicator of early sexual activity

  • Post category:News

Teenage girls are knowledgeable about contraception and the effects of alcohol and other drugs on sexual behaviour but are less aware of the risks posed by sexually transmitted diseases, according to a HSE survey.

Just over half of students surveyed had never had sex but one-quarter of those who were sexually active used no contraception on the most recent occasion, research carried out for the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme found.

Those surveyed were mostly 15-18-year-old girls who had taken part in the Real Deal sex education programme, which is delivered by one-time single mothers rather than teachers or professionals.

The programme, which started in 2008 and is designed to complement relationships and sexuality teaching in schools, has so far been delivered to almost 600 girls and will be provided for another 600 from this autumn.

Alcohol emerges in the survey as a key indicator of early sexual activity; of those students who said they had had sex, all had drunk alcohol at some stage. Conversely, none of those who had abstained from alcohol had tried sexual intercourse.

Some 84 per cent of the girls who took part in the evaluation said they drank alcohol and of these almost half binged by drinking four to six drinks on the one occasion.

One-quarter of the girls claimed to have taken an illegal drug but this figure rose to 45 per cent for those who were sexually active.

Before taking part in the programme, students showed a high level of awareness that alcohol and other drugs can change a person’s ability to make decision about sex. The survey of almost 400 girls also found that the level of awareness of various types of contraception was relatively high.

The girls cited “friends” as the most likely source of information about sexuality and said the pressure to have sex was far more likely to come from someone outside their circle of friends.

The evaluation says the programme was successful in getting girls to give more consideration to the decision to have sex and to be more aware of the consequences. More work was required with older girls on the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs on sexual behaviour, it said.

Targeting girls at 15 and 16 years of age may be too late, according to the report, because some are beginning to feel the pressure to have sex from the age of 12. On foot of another recommendation, research into the feasibility of a similar programme for boys starts next month.


51% of girls surveyed (mostly aged 15 to 18 years old) never had sex

25%  of sexually active girls used no contraception

44%  of those who had sex waited until they were 16 years or over to do so

84%  said they drank alcohol

41%  of those who drank said they were most likely to drink four to six drinks on any one occasion

60%  said they would like more sex education


Source: The Irish Times, 14/10/10
Journalist: Paul Cullen