Teenage pregnancy rates in the UK have been falling dramatically since 2007, and continue to do so, according to new numbers released by the Office of National Statistics. The number of pregnancies among under 18s in England and Wales has plummeted 45% over the last nine years, reports The Telegraph, and is now at the lowest rate since records began five decades ago.
The stats are hardly surprising; over the last five years there has been wide reportage about how British teenagers are having sex less, drinking less and doing fewer drugs. "Generation Z", "Post-Millennials", whatever you want to call them, teenagers today are not only better behaved, but frequently described as more politically engaged (she woke!), harder to market to, and concerned with the future.
Slightly more contentious, are the precise reasons for these intergenerational shifts. Responses to the ONS statistics released on teen pregnancy this morning point towards social media as a leading cause. Pregnancy rates rapidly began to fall around the same time as Facebook became public, suggesting that teenagers are having less sex because they spend more time online. Economic instability could also be a factor in women choosing to have children later, dedicating more time to their careers. The Telegraph reported last year that the number of middle-aged mums has overtaken the number of young mums in the UK, throwing into question what "middle-aged" even means any more. And what else? Well, while the government would probably like to claim improved sex education as the reason teens are waiting to have kids, they'd struggle to claim better access to contraception. Budgets assigned to sexual health services have been dramatically cut in recent years. Dr Chris Wilkinson, President of sexual health service the FPA comments: "Reduced access to SRH services is likely to burden substantial costs on health and wider public services through large numbers of unintended pregnancies." In other words, if sexual health centres keep closing, rates of teenage pregnancy could stop falling in the near future.
While rates of teen pregnancies might be at an all time low now, Britain's rates of teen pregnancy are still relatively high when compared to the rest of Europe. Alison Hadley, who leads the government's strategy to reduce teen pregnancy told the BBC, "England continues to lag behind comparable western European countries, teenagers continue to be at greatest risk of unplanned pregnancy and outcomes for some young parents and their children remain disproportionately poor."