March 28, 2012
Reported condom use among sexually active Canadians ages 15-24 rose from 62 percent in 2003 to 68 percent in 2009-10, Statistics Canada said recently. In the 2009-10 Canadian Community Health Survey, two-thirds of respondents ages 15-24 reported having had sex at least once, which was not a significant change from the 2003 survey.
Sexual activity was reported by 30 percent of those ages 15-17; 68 percent by ages 18-19; and 86 percent of those ages 20-24. No significant change from 2003 was found for those reporting first sex before age 15 (9 percent) or those reporting first sex at ages 15-16 (about 25 percent).
Condom use declined with age, from 80 percent among ages 15-18 to 63 percent for those ages 20-24.
The decline in usage may have to do with how condoms are viewed, said Dr. Ashley Waddington, an OB/GYN at Queens University in Kingston. Younger age groups tend to rely on condoms for birth control, while Canadians moving through their 20s tend to form longer-term, more-committed relationships and use other forms of birth control, she said. In more stable relationships, young adults do not perceive unprotected sex as still being an STD risk factor, agreed Sarah Flicker, an adolescent and sexual/reproductive health expert at York University in Toronto.
"One of the things we should be doing is teaching our kids and young adults that it's really important to think about using birth control and condoms," Flicker said. "That's the best way to both prevent pregnancy and [STIs] to keep them safe."
"You could be with them for six months already, but they could be carrying something that they've had previously and be asymptomatic," said Waddington.