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Minimal Condom Use – Even in Australia

AUSTRALIA – Despite years of safe sex and skin cancer warnings, young Australians are continuing to ignore the messages and take risks with their health.

More than a third of high school senior boys and nearly half of high school senior girls said that they used condoms only “sometimes” or “never” when having sex with a casual partner, according to a new snapshot of the health of young people.

The report, released today, also reveals that the death rate among people aged 12 to 24 has dropped, but mental health problems are on the increase.

Injury and poisoning – including car accidents and suicide – remain the biggest killers.

Report co-author Fadwa Al-Yaman said an alarming jump in sexually transmitted infections may indicate a growing disregard for safe sex messages.

Rates of chlamydia — a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause infertility in women — tripled between 1991 and 2001.

When it comes to safe sex, “a large proportion of young people continue to take risks”, the Institute of Health and Welfare report says.

While there are low rates of sexual protection, 17 per cent of young people do not use any protection — sunglasses, hat, sunscreen or shade — against the sun either.

Nine per cent of young people admitted to hospital were there for mental health problems. Between 1997 and 2001, the rates of admission to hospital for mental and behavioral disorders increased by 28 per cent.

While mental health problems are on the rise, suicide rates dropped from 15.2 to 10.1 deaths per 100,000 between 1997 and 2001.

Dr Al-Yaman said public awareness campaigns about depression and suicide had pushed the suicide rate down.

“Suicide has been going up and up and up until 1997, it peaked at 1997 and now it’s declined by nearly 33 per cent in the last four years,” she said.

Deaths from drug use have also dropped, from 9 per 100,000 in 1998 to 1 per 100,000 in 2001. Only one per cent of deaths among 15 to 24-year-olds in 2001 were caused by drug dependencies.

“This is a transitional period: young people are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, they’re revolutionary and they think they’re indestructible,” Dr Al-Yaman said.

Indigenous youth continued to have higher death rates, more substance abuse, and lower employment.


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