Sex disease is `parents' fault'

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The Independent Online
PARENTS WHO work too hard could be responsible for the worsening sexual health of British teenagers. Experts believe that the lack of time families spend together, combined with low self-esteem among young people, is to blame for Britain having the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexual disease in western Europe.

Research published today in the British Medical Journal shows that the sexual health of people aged between 16 and 19 is deteriorating rapidly. Sexual diseases such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and genital warts increased in both sexes by 20 to 30 per cent between 1995 and 1996, and females in this age group accounted for 20 per cent of all abortions and 9 per cent of all births.

"There is substantial sexual ill health among teenagers,which is part of a worsening trend," said Dr Angus Nicoll, consultant epidemiologist at the Public Health Laboratory Service, who reviewed all national data on sexual ill health and pregnancy for the study.

In an editorial in the BMJ, Professor Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says: "British parents spend less time with their families than any other parents in Europe, because they have the longest working hours. The lack of parental supervision and guidance means that `the devil makes use of idle hands'."

As well as having the highest pregnancy rate in western Europe, adolescents in Britain drink and smoke more than those on the Continent. Research from the European Drug Monitoring Centre shows that they are also more likely to have used all types of illicit drugs.

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