Strong links between alcohol, drugs and risky sexual behaviour are providing fuel for a "sexual health crisis" in Britain, a government advisory body report said Friday.
Sexual health among the young has deteriorated seriously in the last 12 years, and media coverage of celebrities' hard-partying lifestyles may make the problem worse, the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV said.
The study is the latest indictment of childhood in Britain. In February, UNICEF placed it bottom of league table of wealthy countries for child wellbeing and found that more under 15s had had sex than in any other country.
Britain is notorious for its binge-drinking culture. "Young people, from their early teens, are defining a lifestyle that involves alcohol, drugs and sex," said the group's chair, Baroness Joyce Gould.
"We need to address why our young people have turned to these behaviours -- behaviours which put them at risk." The report found that Britain had the highest rate of sexual disease infection (STIs) and teenage pregnancy in Europe.
There has been a "disturbing" increase in STIs -- over the last 12 years, chlamydia and HIV are up 300 percent and syphilis 2,000 percent. The study found a "strong correlation" between sexually transmitted infections, sex and drug use and added that alcohol "can increase the risk of having unprotected sex."
It also highlighted the impact which advertising and celebrities can have from a young age, citing the "publicity and coverage of sex, drugs and excessive drinking by 'celebrities' and 'pop idols' and by characters in 'soaps,' making it an acceptable lifestyle."
Its authors recommended a more collaborative and less "puritanical" official approach to the issues and said condoms should be more accessible to young people and sex education mandatory in schools. Factors including young people having parents who were ambitious for them plus a confindante as well as achievement at school were all helpful.
Professor Mark Bellis, head of the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, said in the report that drugs and alcohol were "fuel for a sexual health crisis" but added: "Ambition in young people is a very, very good contraceptive." Health Minister Caroline Flint said the government would study the report but added that officials were "continually looking at new ways of working to ensure a joined-up approach."