Changes in Sexual Behavior & Hormonal Contraceptives
Use Among Finnish Adolescents
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis,
No. 1536


By Kobra Falah Hassani
July 2010
Tampere University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514481376
119 pages
$82.50 Paper Original

In Finland the rate of induced abortion increased by 66% in the period 1995-2000 among girls aged 15-19 years after a marked decline. Limited information was available on age-specific trends of sexual behavior and contraceptive use in the adolescent population from mid-1990s onwards. The aims of this study were as follows: 1) Trends of non-coital and coital experience and sexual risk-taking behavior among Finnish adolescents in the period 1996-2007; 2) Trends in oral contraceptive use and the characteristics of users during the years 1981-2003; 3) The use of vaginal ring and transdermal patch in 2007; 4) The use and awareness of emergency contraception (EC), the characteristics of EC users and the effect of non-prescription status on EC use.

Datasets from the School Health Promotion Study from 1996 to 2007 and the Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey from 1981 to 2007 were used. The School Health Promotion Study is an anonymous classroom survey among adolescents in the 8th and 9th grades (ages 14-16). The study has been carried out annually since 1996, every second year in Eastern Finland and every second year in Western Finland. The response rates have been high, around 90%. Number of respondents was 286,665 (143,843 boys and 142,822 girls). Information on kissing on the mouth, light petting (fondling on top of clothes), heavy petting (fondling under clothes or naked), and sexual intercourse was gathered. Among sexually active adolescents, the number of intercourse, the number of sexual partners, and the use of contraception at the most recent intercourse were asked.

The Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey is a nationwide biennial cross-sectional mailed survey with samples representing 12, 14, 16 or 18 year age groups. The sample has been drawn from the Central Population Register. The study samples have been based on dates of birth, so that all Finns born on the sample days have been included. The annual number of female respondents has varied between 1,200 and 4,100. Self-administered questionnaires have been mailed in February every second year with two or three reminders to non-responders. Questions on dating, oral contraceptive use and emergency contraceptive use have been included. The study has been conducted since 1977, while the use of oral contraceptives has been ascertained from 1981 onwards.

Based on the School Health Promotion Study, kissing on the mouth, light petting, and heavy petting increased between 1996/1997 and 2000/2001 and decreased between 2000/2001 and 2006/2007. Sexual activity and the intensity of sexual life followed the same pattern. The proportion of adolescents engaging in sexual intercourse, those having 10 or more sexual intercourses, having three or more sex partners and non-use of contraception at the most recent intercourse increased between 1996/1997 and 2000/2001. The measures of the intensity of sexual life decreased between 2000/2001 and 2006/2007. The only exception was the proportion of those having experienced sexual intercourse 10 or more times, which did not decrease between 2000/2001 and 2006/2007.

Based on the Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey, the use of oral contraceptives almost doubled in 1989 compared with 1981, from 9.5% to 20.2%, while no changes were observed between 1989 and 2007. The use of oral contraceptives was reported more frequently among older teenagers, girls living with parents, girls with lower age at menarche, girls whose mothers or fathers had low educational status, girls whose fathers had lower occupational status, and girls with poor school grades.

Only 1% of girls aged 14-18 used the vaginal ring or transdermal patch in 2007. The use of the vaginal ring was reported more commonly in older teenagers, girls not living with parents, smokers and alcohol consumers.

The awareness of EC increased with age and over time, and was 99.8% in 2007. Fifteen percent of adolescents had ever used EC in 2007. The use of EC did not change with non-prescription status between 1999 and 2007. The use of EC was more frequent in smokers and alcohol consumers than in non-smokers or non-drinkers.

This study showed an increase in all range of non-coital and coital sexual experiences, having multiple sex partners and not using a contraceptive method at most recent intercourse in 1996-2001. Our findings suggest that effective use of contraceptive methods did not increase consistently with increasing sexual activity. Therefore, increase in proportion of sexually active adolescents, intensity of sex life and insufficient use of effective contraceptive methods contributed to an increase in teenage abortions.

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