Canadian teen pregnancy rate dropping faster that U.S., Sweden, England

The teen pregnancy rate in Canada is declining faster than in the United States, England or Sweden, and experts say that reflects a generation of teenagers who are better informed about sex and young women who see a future that includes goals other than motherhood.

Between 1996 and 2006, the most recent years for which information is available for all four countries, Canada’s teen pregnancy rate fell by 36.9 per cent, according to a study released Wednesday by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN). That’s compared to a 25 per cent decline in the U.S., a 4.75 per cent dip in England (where statistics include Wales) and a 19.1 per cent increase in Sweden.

The teen pregnancy rate in this country fell in each consecutive year of that decade, declining from 44.2 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 1996 to 27.9 in 2006.

“What’s striking is that the magnitude of decline appears to be more significant in Canada,” says Alex McKay, lead author of the study and research co-ordinator with SIECCAN. “Declining teen pregnancy rates for the country in general are indicative of better sexual and reproductive health among young women.”

In 2006, Canada’s teen pregnancy rate was lower than that of any of the other three countries, the report shows, and Canada has seen a decline both in babies born to teenage mothers and pregnant teens seeking abortions.

The Canadian teen birthrate — that’s the number of teens actually completing their pregnancies — fell 38 per cent over a decade and the teen abortion rate declined by 35.7 per cent, compared to a 21.7 per cent decrease in the teen birthrate in the U.S. and a 28.6 per cent drop in the teen abortion rate. In England, teen birthrates fell 13.2 per cent and the abortion rate increased by 9.1 per cent, while Sweden’s teen birthrate dropped 22.1 per cent and abortions rose by 30 per cent.

In Canada, the “teen pregnancy rate” typically includes births, abortions and stillbirths or miscarriages, but because of differences in the data among the four countries, the teen pregnancy rate for this study was calculated based on live births and abortions only. The miscarriage rate in this age group is “minuscule,” McKay says, so this likely had very little impact on the overall statistics.

“It’s still really taboo on lots of people’s minds about having sex, and I think it leads to the judgment around teen pregnancy. I think we live a double-standard and youth sometimes get caught in that double-standard that, ‘Sex is out there, but don’t do it!’ ” says Louise Moody, executive director of Humewood House, a young parents’ resource centre in Toronto. “People don’t stand up on a bus for a pregnant teen to have a seat, and that’s sad.”

Like McKay, Moody believes falling teen pregnancy rates are a result of better-informed young people making smarter choices about sex, but they also reflect young women who see a future for themselves that might include something other than motherhood, she says. In her experience, many of the young women who choose to become parents aren’t following the “traditional trajectory” through school to a career, she says, and they often lack role-models or stable homes.

“We need to read into teen pregnancy that there are young women for whom parenting is sometimes their rite of passage into adulthood . . . it’s not going to university,” Moody says.

Over the last decade, just over half of Canadian teen pregnancies ended in abortion, with births accounting for 45 to 50 per cent of teen pregnancies in any given year. In the U.S. over the same period, births accounted for 65 to 70 per cent of teen pregnancies, while in England, that figure hovered between 58 and 64 per cent.

In Sweden, however, teen births represent a small and declining portion of teen pregnancies, accounting for 19.1 to 30.3 per cent of teen pregnancies over the 10-year period in the study. By 2006, abortion accounted for about 80 per cent of Sweden’s teen pregnancy rate, and researchers have found that young women consider abortion “a viable — but at the same time undesirable — way of dealing with teen pregnancy,” says McKay.



Article courtesy: Postmedia News

Teen Parent Success Celebrated

Celebrating teen parent success! That’s what Mary Dolan and Kathy Payne are doing, following the release of the Growing Together Child and Parent Society Longitudinal Follow-Up Study documenting the effects of the Cowichan Valley’s young parent program on local teen families.

That study, which examined the life trajectories of young parents who had completed their high school education with support from the Growing Together Young Parent Program, demonstrated such positive results, that we sent Program Coordinator David Sheftel to Duncan to find out more.

Mary Dolan
Mary Dolan

Now, you can listen in on David’s interview with former Growing Together director and study author Mary Dolan, and Kathy Payne, the program’s manager. Narrated by Jennifer Dales of the BC Alliance for Young Parents, the wide-ranging interview examines emerging best practices for young parent programs, and discusses the challenges of serving vulnerable families.


To learn more about the Longitudinal Follow-Up, check out our previous blog post on the study.

Check out all of our monthly podcast interviews with experts, academics and innovative service providers online at Voices of Family.


To listen to an audio version of this interview, click here.



Article courtesy BC Council for the Family

Energy Drinks and Alcohol – A Risky Combo at the Bar

Energy and BoozeSince the introduction of Red Bull in the U.S. in 1997, the market for high-caffeine energy drinks has grown exponentially. And it didn’t take long for young co-eds to concoct alcoholic, high-energy mixtures.

From “Jager Bombs” (Jagermeister and Red Bull) to “Red Bull and Vodka,” these drinks have become favourites on the bar scene. Now, in Elsevier’s Addictive Behaviors, researchers explore the associations between energy drink consumption, alcohol intoxication and intention to drive a motor vehicle in patrons exiting bars at night. Data was collected in a U.S. college bar district from 802 randomly selected and self-selected patrons, asking them questions about their energy drink consumption and energy drink consumption mixed with alcohol. Breath alcohol concentration readings were taken.

Results showed that patrons who had consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were at a three-fold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated, as well as a four-fold increased risk of intending to drive upon leaving the bar district, compared to other drinking patrons who did not consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks.

This field of study of energy drink and alcohol consumption continues to grow. The authors suggest product labelling could potentially include a clear warning about risks that might be experienced when combining energy drinks and alcohol. Policy seeking to curtail on-premise marketing of alcoholic drinks mixed with energy drinks could also be considered as a tactic to educate about the risks of this mixture.

Cited from Elsevier February 2010

Is Life Expectancy Reduced by a Traumatic Childhood?

A difficult childhood reduces life expectancy by 20 years among adults who experienced six or more particular types of abuse or household dysfunction as kids, while those who suffered fewer types of trauma lost fewer years of life, a large-scale epidemiological study finds.

The study, published this week by Elsevier in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reports that participants who were exposed to six or more different types of adverse childhood events (ACEs), such as physical or sexual abuse, were also 54 percent more likely to die during the 10-year period of the study. On the other hand, people who reported fewer than six ACEs did not have a statistically increased risk of death compared with the control group (those reporting no adverse childhood events). Still, those with one to five ACEs who did pass away during the study period were on average three to 5.4 years younger than those who died in the control group.

“As far as we know, this is the first cohort study to examine the association between ACEs and mortality,” wrote David Brown, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead author of the study.

To explore the effect that childhood trauma could have on life span, the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Department of Preventive Medicine, in collaboration with the CDC, mailed questionnaires to adults who were 18 years and older, and who had visited the Kaiser clinic in San Diego from 1995 to 1997. Overall, the study subjects were middle-class and had good health coverage. The participants were asked about their exposure to eight categories of abuse or dysfunction based on previous Kaiser studies. Three were direct abuse—emotional, physical or sexual—and the remaining five addressed household dysfunctions: separated or divorced parents; domestic violence against the mother; a household member who abused drugs, was mentally ill or in prison.

One third of the 17,337 participants who replied to the questionnaires had an ACE score of zero, meaning they had not been exposed to any of the eight types of abuse or household dysfunction. The majority of the remaining responders registered a score of between one and four, whereas about 8 percent of the scoring participants were rated five, and roughly three percent, six to eight.

The most commonly reported abuses were physical, followed by two of the dysfunctions: a household member with a substance abuse problem and then by separated or divorced parents. The rates of certain abuses calculated in the ACE study (for instance, 16 percent sexual abuse among of men and 25 percent among women) were in keeping with results from earlier national surveys.

During the next decade, the study authors, kept records of which of the 17,337 participants passed away by matching identifying information such as Social Security numbers from the questionnaire with data from the National Death Index. In total 1,539 of the participants died during the follow-up period.

When the increased number of deaths in those subjects with an ACE score of six or greater was compared with the control group, their mortality risk was 1.5 times higher than for people whose childhoods had been free of all eight types of abuse. They lost about 20 years from their lives, living to 60.6 years on average, whereas the average age of death for the control group was 79.1.

Although a similar number of people died who had an ACE score of five or less as in the control group, the average age at which they died varied depending on score. People in the control group died on average at 79.1 years, whereas the average age of death for people who had had two ACEs was 76; for people with three to five ACEs it was 73.5.

Childhood TraumaThe fact that subjects with a score of less than six lost fewer years from their lives could mean that the authors would see a difference in mortality risk if they followed the subjects over more than 10 years, the CDC’s Brown wrote. “There is really no way to tell, but there are plans to repeat the match to the National Death Index in a few years to capture an additional five years of follow-up,” he says.

It is unclear why the authors saw more deaths during the 10-year period only for the group with an ACE score of six or greater. Previous studies by these authors found that the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer, was greater only for people with these high ACE scores. In contrast, the risk of substance abuse and suicide increased stepwise from low to high scores. The authors found that ACE-related health risks, namely mental illness, social problems and prescription medication use, accounted for about 30 percent of the 50 percent greater risk of death seen in this population. “As would be expected, the documented ACE-related conditions among participants appear to account for some, although not all, of the increased risk of premature death observed in the current study,” Brown wrote.

As Brown notes, various types of childhood abuse and household dysfunction are highly interrelated. For example, people who reported one ACE were 52 percent more likely to report at least three other types of ACEs, according to an earlier study by Kaiser and the CDC.

“The central message of the publications from the ACE Study,” Brown says, “is that our children are confronted with a terrible burden of stressors that negatively affect their [development], which leads to health problems and diseases throughout the life span.”


Article cited from Scientific American, 9th October 2009