Young people across the globe are having more unprotected sex and know less about effective contraception options, a multinational survey revealed on Monday.
The "Clueless or Clued Up: Your Right to be informed about contraception" study prepared for World Contraception Day (WCD) reports that the number of young people having unsafe sex with a new partner increased by 111 per cent in France, 39 per cent in the USA and 19 per cent in Britain in the last three years.
"No matter where you are in the world, barriers exist which prevent teenagers from receiving trustworthy information about sex and contraception, which is probably why myths and misconceptions remain so widespread even today," a member of the WCD task force, Denise Keller, said in a statement with the results of the study.
"When young people have access to contraceptive information and services, they can make choices that affect every aspect of their lives which is why it's so important that accurate and unbiased information is easily available for young people to obtain," Keller said.
The survey, commissioned by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals and endorsed by 11 international non-governmental organizations, questioned more than 6,000 young people from 26 countries including Chile, Poland and China, on their attitudes toward sex and contraception.
The level of unplanned pregnancies among young people is a major global issue, campaigners say, and the rise in unprotected sex in several counties has sparked concern about the quality of sex education available to youngsters.
In Europe, only half of respondents receive sex education from school, compared to three quarters across Latin America, Asia Pacific and the USA.
Many respondents also said that they felt too embarrassed to ask a healthcare professional for contraception.
"What young people are telling us is that they are not receiving enough sex education or the wrong type of information about sex and sexuality," spokeswoman for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Jennifer Woodside said in a statement.
"The results show that too many young people either lack good knowledge about sexual health, do not feel empowered enough to ask for contraception or have not learned the skills to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies or STIs (sexually transmitted infections)," she said.
More than a third of respondents in Egypt believe bathing or showering after sex will prevent pregnancy, and more than a quarter of those in Thailand and India believe that having intercourse during menstruation is an effective form of contraception.
But the fact that many young people engage in unprotected sex and the prevalence of harmful myths should not come as a surprise, Woodside said.
"How can young people make decisions that are right for them and protect them from unwanted pregnancy and STIs, if we do not empower them and enable them to acquire the skills they need to make those choices?" she said.