Teenage pregnancy figures for under 18’s across Leicestershire are down for the tenth consecutive year, with many experts linking this to the amount of time young people spend online.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) believes the changing social interactions of teenagers, with growing use of social media and online relationships, is affecting their likelihood of having sexual relationships.
The latest figures for Leicestershire show the annual rate in 2017 has decreased to 12.3 per 1,000 females aged 15-17 years. This is a 12.9% decrease since the 2016 figures were released.
The new figures also show that teenage conceptions have fallen by two-thirds in Leicestershire since 1998 to 2017.
Across the county the teenage pregnancy rate has remained significantly lower than the East Midland’s and England’s annual rate.
Five districts in Leicestershire witnessed a decrease compared to the previous year, with Oadby and Wigston seeing the greatest improvement.
The latest data shows out of all the districts, North West Leicestershire has the highest conception rate at 17.5 per 1,000 females aged 15-17 years and Melton the lowest at 4.7 per 1,000 females aged 15-17 years.
Research by the BPAS suggests the lower levels of teenage pregnancy rates may in part be attributed to lower levels of face-to-face interaction between young people and their peers.
Out of a 1,000 teenagers surveyed, more than two-thirds (70%) said they speak to friends online four or more times a week, while less than a quarter (24%) interact with friends in person (this is often outside of work or studying).
Young people who regularly socialise face-to-face with their friends or partners are more likely to be sexually active.
Almost half (46%) of teenagers who see friends four times a week said they have had sex, compared to 29% of those who see them in person once a month or less.
Around a third (33%) of teenagers viewed time with their family as of high importance, and the majority of respondents (82%) said getting good grades or succeeding in their chosen career was a priority.
Katherine O’Brien, Head of Policy Research at BPAS, said: “Our research reveals that this is a generation who are focused on their education, aware of economic challenges, but determined to succeed regardless, and many of whom enjoy time with their families as much with partners and friends.”
“They seem to place significant value on responsibility and maturity, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption and sex.
“We believe that young people themselves are making different choices about the way they live their lives.”
“If we can maintain good access to contraceptive services for young people, there is every reason to hope this profound decline in teenage pregnancies is here to stay.”