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Sex and drugs and rock and roll

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 15 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1300

Britain can learn lessons from Europe on the health of adolescents

  1. Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health (
  1. European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

Papers p 1321

In this week's BMJ Nicoll et al describe how, on a wide range of indicators, the sexual health of adolescents in England and Wales worsened between 1995 and 1996 (p 1321).1 Even before this deterioration there were considerable grounds for concern as the United Kingdom had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, with birth rates among 15-19 year olds seven times those in the Netherlands,2 where, although rates of adolescent sexual activity are comparable, contraceptive use is much more common.3 What is especially worrying is that it is not only in sexual health that British teenagers to do rather worse than their continental counterparts.

Before Christmas the European Drugs Monitoring Centre reported that British teenagers were more likely to have used all categories of illicit drugs than were their counterparts in any other European Union country.4 Cross-European surveys show that 15 year old boys living in Wales and …

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