Press Releases

12 Jun 2017

Report on Youth Sexuality Study 2016

Renewed calls for strengthening comprehensive sexuality education followed the findings of the Youth Sexuality Study 2016 released today, which revealed youths’ declining sexual knowledge, greater acceptance of diverse sexual orientations, increased exposure to pornography and cybersex, and ambivalence towards traditional ideals about marriage and family formation.

The Youth Sexuality Study (YSS) has been conducted by The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK) every five years since 1981, and monitors changing trends in local youngsters’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to sexuality, said Mr. Sun Chan, FPAHK’s Statistics & Information Technology Manager. The eighth survey carried out last year successfully polled a total of 5,146 youths: 3,907 secondary school students from Form One to Form Six, and 1,239 youths aged between 18 and 27 in a household survey.

Sexual Knowledge & Sexuality Education
F.3-F.6 students scored an average of 8 correct answers out of 12 key questions about conception, sexually transmissible infections (STI) and HIV/AIDS in 2016, down from 9 in 2011. The average score of F.1-F.2 students, already unsatisfactory at 6 in 2011, further dropped to 5 in 2016. Among the wide range of sexuality education topics in which students indicated interest, the most popular were “dating and love”, “adolescent development”, “safe sex”, “sexual health, HIV/AIDS and STI” and “preventing and dealing with sexual harassment”.

Sexual Attitudes
Compared to the 2011 survey, there was lower acceptance of such behavior as having multiple dating partners, extra-marital affairs, abortion and compensated dating. On the other hand, acceptance of LGBT was generally higher. About 60% of female respondents and 40% of male respondents accepted female and male homosexualities.

33% of secondary school girls and 59% of boys had viewed pornography, up about 5-percentage points from 2011. Worryingly, one out of five boys who had viewed pornography had viewed it more than 15 times in the past month. Among all the youth, around 15-20% girls and 30% boys had received pornographic messages or images in their mobile phones. Most of them deleted the message, 34-43% of girls blocked the message or sender whereas 24-29% of boys saved the message. Only 1-3% of the 18-27 year-olds had experienced “strip chat”.

Sexual Orientation
15% of secondary school girls and 13% of secondary school boys were unsure about their sexual orientation. These percentages dropped to 4% of 18-27 year-olds, indicating that sexual identity may take some years to mature in a small proportion of youths.

Dating Experience
The prevalence of dating experience among secondary school students remained quite steady over the last two decades at around 30% for F.1-F.2 and 60% for F.3-F.6, with a slight decline in the recent 5 years. Less than a quarter of F.1-F.2 students and no more than half of F.3-F.6 students had dated in the 2016 survey. Among those who had dated, the average age of first dating was 11-12 years old for F.1-F.2 students and 13-14 years old for F.3-F.6 students. The number of dating partners also showed a downward trend in both genders and year groups. Dating behaviors such as holding hands, hugging, kissing and caressing were common, but sexual intercourse remained uncommon. Around 40% of boys and girls who had dated had experienced conflict, and 75% of girls and 64% of boys had experienced break-up for a variety of reasons.

Marriage Intention
Around 90% of secondary school students said they would marry in future. In contrast, less than half of the 18-27 year-olds indicated they would marry in future, continuing the downward trend over the past two decades. Notably and for the first time, those who said they would cohabitate before marriage (24% females and 34% males) exceeded those who said they would marry without cohabitation (23% females and 12% males), indicating that cohabitation before marriage may become the norm. Their ideal median age of marriage was 28 for females and 30 for males, in comparison with the median age of first marriage of 29.3 and 31.2 respectively according to 2015 figures of the Census and Statistics Department.

Among the 18-27 year-olds, 32% of females and 40% of males were unsure if they would cohabitate or marry. The top reasons for not marrying or being undecided were more or less evenly distributed among “lack of a suitable partner”, “enjoying single life”, and “Insufficient finances” among the males, while females predominantly chose the first two reasons.

Family Formation
Regarding their childbearing intention, 74% of F.3-F.6 secondary school girls and 78% of F.3-F.6 secondary school boys said they would have child(ren), up from 61% and 68% respectively in 2006. In contrast, among the 18-27 year-olds, 57% females and 54% males said they would have child(ren), down from 71% for both sexes in 2006. 28% females and 35% males were uncertain of whether they would have child(ren). When asked of their ideal number of children, “let nature take its course” was the most popular answer, given by about 40% of the 18-27 year-olds. Among those who gave a specific number for their ideal number of children, the average ideal parity continued to decline to 1.33 among females and 1.37 among males. The median ideal age of first childbirth was 28.4 among females, 3 years less than Hong Kong women’s actual median age of first childbirth of 31.4 years in 2015.

Sexual Experience
Overall, only 1-2% of F.1-F.2 students and 6-7% of F.3-F.6 students had experienced sexual intercourse, lower than the corresponding figures in 2011. The mean age of first sex among the F.3-F.6 students who had commenced sexual intercourse remained at 15.

Among the 18-27 year-olds, around 45% of both males and females had experienced sexual intercourse, more or less the same as in 2011. The mean age of first sex among youths who had commenced sexual intercourse also remained quite constant at 19.

The percentage of 18-27 year-old females who had been pregnant rose from 10% in 2011 to 14% with a notable increase in their mean age of first pregnancy to 25.2, compared to around 20 years of age in the past 20 years. 60% of first pregnancies resulted in childbirth, representing a significant 11-percentage points increase from 2011. Most of the pregnancies in this group were within marriage. Correspondingly, first pregnancies which ended in abortion decreased by 12 percentage points to 29%, and most of these pregnancies were outside of marriage.

The proportion of 18-27 year-old females who had had abortion had levelled off at 5% since 2006. Around 70% had the procedure in FPAHK or Hong Kong hospitals and 16% had illegal abortion in Hong Kong.

Cervical Cancer Vaccination
The cervical cancer vaccination coverage among F.1-F.2 and F.3-F.6 girls increased slightly from 6% and 8% in 2011 to 12% and 11% respectively. Coverage among the 18-27 year old females rose from 11% to 24%.

Dr Susan Fan, FPAHK’s Executive Director, said these findings highlight the need for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) to be introduced early and strengthened in schools. CSE should not only cover correct factual information, but also cultivate positive attitudes and values, and teach life skills (such as critical thinking, decision making, communication skills, conflict resolution and self-management) so that youth are empowered to make informed and responsible choices. A variety of topics such as dating and intimacy, safer sex, pornography and cybersex, gender-based violence, gender identity and sexual orientation should be included. A non-stigmatizing and age-appropriate approach tailored to the needs and interests of adolescents is recommended. It should be reassuring to parents and educators that the prevalence of dating and intimate behaviour among secondary school students has not escalated compared to a decade ago.

On the other hand, while secondary school students still have a largely positive outlook on future marriage and childbearing, the 18-27 year olds are increasingly unsure or ambivalent about these matters. Their confidence in future family formation may be influenced by their perceived socioeconomic status in our highly competitive society. Support and encouragement from parents and peers would help to allay their anxieties and foster greater optimism.

The cervical cancer vaccination coverage of adolescent girls remains very low. Efforts to raise awareness and educate parents should be stepped up to improve the prevention of cervical cancer.

Note: PowerPoint file of graphs of the Study findings (available in Chinese only) and event photographs are downloadable from the Press Release Section under Media Centre on FPAHK Website (