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September 7, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Youth ’07

In July this year, the results of Youth ’07, the second National Health and Wellbeing Survey of New Zealand Secondary School Students, were released. A separate report for young people attracted to the same sex or both sexes was released. This report contained some significant findings relating to the health and wellbeing of young people attracted to the same or both sexes.

The first National Health and Wellbeing Survey of New Zealand Secondary School Students was conducted in 2001, as part of Youth2000, which is run by the Adolescent Health Research Group at the University of Auckland. The aim of Youth2000 is to provide accurate, current and representative information about health and wellbeing issues for secondary school students in New Zealand.

Youth ’07 surveyed 9,107 secondary school students from 96 New Zealand schools. However, only 8,002 survey participants chose to answer the questions relating to sexual attraction. Of the respondents, four percent identified as being attracted to the same sex or both sexes.

Research has found that young people who experience same-sex attractions or who engage in same-sex sexual behaviour will not necessarily identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Therefore, young people who experience same-sex attractions may or may not be sexually active with someone of the same sex, and may still consider themselves to be heterosexual or straight.

The Youth ‘07 results refer to young people as being same sex or both sex attracted. The survey asked about attraction, rather than sexual identity, sexual orientation of same-sex behaviour. This means, that the survey did not ask young people whether they identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

There were many positive trends emerging from the Youth ‘07 survey. Almost all same-sex and both-sex attracted young people who responded to the survey questions reported having “positive and caring relationships with their parents and that they were happy or satisfied with life.”

Of those who responded as being attracted to the same sex or both sexes, a large number said that they had been aware of their attractions from a young age. However, 60 percent said that they had not come out, and less than a quarter said that they were able to easily talk to their family about their sexuality.

Some concerning health disparities are evident when same-sex and both-sex attracted young peoples’ results are compared with those of their opposite-sex attracted counterparts. Rates of alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted infections and mental ill-health appear to be higher among same-sex and both-sex-attracted students.

From the survey results, it appears that same-sex and both-sex attracted young people are more sexually active. 59 percent of those who responded as being same-sex or both-sex attracted have ever had sex, whereas only 36 percent of opposite-sex-attracted youth have ever had sex. Those that were currently sexually active were 45 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Of course, issues arise around this sort of question and differing interpretations of what constitutes sex. The actual question asked in the survey related to a young person’s “first experience of sex (sexual intercourse or going all the way)”. The report acknowledges that this wording suggests that sex is all about sexual intercourse, and states that this notion of sex may not be the same for same-sex or both-sex attracted young people, who would perhaps take a wider view of what constitutes sex.

While Youth ’07 shows that many sexually active same-sex and both-sex attracted people regularly use condoms or other contraceptives, same-sex and both-sex attracted males were more likely to say that they were inconsistent in their use of condoms (46 percent) and contraceptives (38 percent). Inconsistent use relates to those who “sometimes” or “never” use condoms as protection against STIs, or contraception as protection against pregnancy. Opposite-sex attracted males reported inconsistency rates of 25 percent and
21 per cent respectively.

Of the male respondents who were attracted to the same or both sexes, less than half (48 percent) said they used a condom last time they had sex, whereas 70 percent of male attracted to the opposite sex did so. There was little disparity in the rates of condom and contraceptive use among female respondents, however, these figures may not take into account those young women who are sexually active and attracted to the same sex.

Given the above statistics, it is not surprising that the Youth ’07 survey found that same- and both-sex attracted young people were over three times more likely to report having had a sexually transmitted disease (STI) when compared to their peers who were attracted to the opposite sex.

However, the most inexplicable statistic emerging from the survey is that 22 percent of the same and opposite sex attracted youth had been pregnant or had got another person pregnant, whereas only 9 percent of their opposite sex attracted people reported being in either of these situations.

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