The 2021 National Institute for Health Development (TAI) youth sexuality and sexual health study found that young people, on average, become sexually active at the age of 15 in Estonia, while the relative importance of minors who have experienced sexual intercourse has fallen. Changes have been most extensive among basic school students.
The TAI report "Estonian youth sexual health: awareness, attitudes and behavior" revealed that 22 percent of young people have had sex, which grows from 7 percent among 14-year-olds to 53 percent for 18-year-olds. 71 percent of young people said they used a condom during their first intercourse.
Of those who reported having had sex, 76 percent said they had engaged in sexual intercourse with a steady partner and 28 percent with a casual partner. Half of young people who reported having been in one-night stands said they used a condom.
"The regular study has been carried out since 2003 and sported its lowest ever percentage of young people with sexual experience in 2021. This comes as a positive sign to suggest people want to postpone becoming sexually active, which trend was first observed in the 2015 study. However, it might also have to do with limited social contacts in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic," said Liilia Lõhmus, the study coordinator and research fellow at TAI.
"It is problematic that the use of condoms has fallen or remained unchanged among young people who have had sex. Data also suggests young people do not always know how to properly use a condom. Broad-based and consistent sexual education on all school levels is the cure, and something that young people want to see," Lõhmus added.
Young people prone to riskier sexual behavior are also more likely to use drugs and sport a negative attitude toward condoms. On the positive side, young people who exhibit risk behavior are more diligent about HIV testing.
32 percent of young people believe they know enough about HIV, while data suggests 39 percent of young people know about different ways the virus spreads.
39 percent of youths are tolerant of HIV-positive people, while 86 percent said they would not cut ties with a friend of acquaintance if the latter contracted HIV.
Liilia Lõhmus said that, unfortunately, awareness in terms of the different ways the virus spread has fallen, adding that more knowledgeable young people are also more tolerant of HIV-positive people.
The data was collected in the fall of 2021 in the conditions of Covid restrictions – a time of limited social interaction for young people. Students were learning remotely and could not attend hobby school. The study was carried out among 14-18-year-olds.
Editor: Marcus Turovski