Canada’s Teens Increasingly Abstinent

Lately it seems like many of us in the United States are in a tizzy over abstinence-only programs. Millions of our tax dollars—perhaps I’m a little touchy about that on today of all days—are being wasted on programs that simply don’t work. What is it that its supporters want? Studies showing that preaching abstinence only makes teens have unsafe sex because they don’t understand the options or consequences? Anecdotal evidence? Better yet, proof that people raised in a society where sex is openly discussed and reproductive health is taught at an early age will make intelligent decisions about their bodies?

No problem. Just look north.

According to recent figures from Statistics Canada as reported on, “43 percent of youth aged 15 to 19 said they had sexual intercourse at least once in 2005, compared to 47 per cent in 1996-97, the agency found, using two comparative surveys.” Alex McKay, of the non-profit organization Sex Information and Education Council of Canada in Toronto, told them that it was the culture surrounding sex in Canada that made these important conversations possible.

“Although in the U.S., American culture is saturated with superficial, titillating sexual media, the society has more restrictions on teen sex. Sometimes abstinence is the only sex-education program in schools. There is an attitude and that’s why their teen pregnancy rate is double of what Canada’s is and they have a higher rate of sexually transmitted infections.”

I think McKay’s hit the condom on the resevoir tip, so to speak, especially in light of reports from Project Teen Canada, an ongoing survey of teens in the country to get a sense of the standard lifestyle. According to their latest report, teens are not only having less sex—56 percent say they don’t at all—but smoking, drinking, and using drugs on a less frequent basis as well.

So what’s Canada doing that America’s not? Talking openly about sexuality, and trusting that most teens can make good decisions. Once parents realize that normal adolescent life isn’t like Gossip Girl, maybe we can start talking with teens, instead of at them—and get some real, healthy results.

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  • invalid-0

    This is a very refreshing thing to know. It seems if one problem is addressed properly, a lot of other related issues would be solved as well. A nation of abstinent, drug free and well informed teens sounds very promising. US, please take a cue from Canada.

  • invalid-0

    Here’s in the states we’re so two-faced about our public and private lives that it’s no wonder kids are confused.

  • invalid-0

    This is very worrisome.

    We already know that Americans have a bigger army than us, a bigger economy than us (still?) and a lot more influence around the world (see Britney, Paris, Brangelina etc.) along with a much cooler leader and even cooler wife.

    And now we learn that American kids are having more fun with sex, drugs and booze than our Canadian kids.

    Certainly, a vital part of my growing up involved sex, drugs and booze. And I don’t know how anyone can truly grow up and march boldly out into the world as a real person without practice, experience (and some abuse) in these areas.

    The only consolation I can find is that recent research indicates that the last part of the human brain to mature is the part that governs cause and effect. Apparently it doesn’t click in until a human is around 24 years old.

    So, thankfully, there’s still time for the next generation to get its act together and make us proud again.

  • invalid-0

    Without awareness, there is nothing which we can do and I am happy to know that we are no more ignorant. It is not only about US or CANADA but all the world. World was a quite different place 10 years ago and it would be entirely different place after 10 years so we have to upgrade ourselves. Our kids should be more educated and sophisticated and they should have more awareness about what is right and what is wrong.

  • invalid-0

    I think that increasingly rising abstinence is a good sign.

  • invalid-0

    I agree that abstinence is definitely a good sign!

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