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International comparisons of teenage births

ONS analyses the latest teenage birth rates - how does the UK compare?

There is a great deal of interest in teenage pregnancy levels in the UK and how these levels compare to other countries within Europe and the world. Globally, adolescent pregnancy and childbirth is regarded as a major contributor to maternal and child mortality and to the cycle of ill-health and poverty. This is largely as a result of the associated socio-economic factors before and after pregnancy as opposed to the biological effects of young maternal age.

The current Government has included the under 18 teenage conception (pregnancy) rate as one of its three sexual health indicators in its Public Health Outcomes Framework (2013-2016) in England and it is an important measure of progress on child poverty. This means there is a continued focus on preventing teenage conceptions as well as improving the social and health impact upon teenage mothers and their children. The reduction of the number of teenage pregnancies is a devolved issue and as such Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland set out their own strategies for tackling teenage pregnancy.

Birth rates per 1,000 women are typically used to compare the prevalence of teenage pregnancy internationally. The age of the mother is determined by the date when the pregnancy ended and not by the estimated date of conception. Conceptions statistics include pregnancies that result in a live birth, stillbirth or a legal abortion but are not widely available for European and worldwide comparisons.

Birth rate decreases among women aged 15-19 across Europe

The UK birth rate among women aged 15-19 was higher than the EU281,2 rate in 2012, at 19.7 births per 1,000 women compared with 12.6 births among the EU28. However, the UK birth rate has fallen by more than a quarter (26.8%) since 2004 compared to a fall of almost one fifth (18.2%) among the EU28 over the same period. In 2004, the UK rate was 26.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 compared with the EU28 rate of 15.4 births (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Live birth rate (per 1,000) to women, in United Kingdom and EU28, 2004-2012

Figure 1: Live birth rate (per 1,000) to women, in United Kingdom and EU28, 2004-2012

Notes:

  1. Source: Eurostat data, compiled by the Office for National Statistics

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Across the EU28 in 2012, the birth rate among women aged 15-19 was lowest in Denmark (4.4), Slovenia (4.5) and the Netherlands (4.5). The highest birth rates were in Romania and Bulgaria at 39.4 and 42.6 respectively (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Live birth rate (per 1,000) to women aged 15-19 and 15-17 in EU28 countries, 2012

Figure 2: Live birth rate (per 1,000) to women aged 15-19 and 15-17 in EU28 countries, 2012

Notes:

  1. Source: Eurostat data, compiled by the Office for National Statistics

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Birth rate decreases among women aged 15-19 outside the EU28 and outside Europe

Outside the EU28, Switzerland had the lowest birth rate with 3.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 2012 and Azerbaijan had the highest rate with 50.0 births. Outside Europe, birth rates among young women were higher than the overall EU28 birth rate. In 2012, the birth rate among young women was 16.1 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in Australia, 24.9 in New Zealand and 29.4 in the United States. Similarly to Europe, the birth rate has decreased in each of these three countries since 2004.

Birth rate decreases among women aged 15-17 across Europe

The UK birth rate among women aged 15-17 was higher than the EU28 rate in 2012 at 9.2 per 1,000 women compared with 6.5 births among the EU28. However the UK birth rate has fallen by almost a third (32.3%) since 2004 compared to a fall of 15.6% among the EU28 over the same period. In 2004 the UK rate was 13.6 births per 1,000 women aged 15-17 compared with the EU28 rate of 7.7 births (Figure 1). Across the EU28 in 2012, the birth rate among teenage girls was lowest in Denmark at 1.3 and highest in Bulgaria at 35.2 (Figure 2).

Where can I find out more about UK birth and conception statistics?

If you’d like to find out more about birth statistics, see Birth Summary Tables and Vital Statistics: Population and Health Reference Tables. For data for other UK countries please see the latest birth statistics for Northern Ireland and the latest birth statistics for Scotland. For information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to birth statistics, please see Births Metadata (332.6 Kb Pdf) and Quality and Methodology Information (257.9 Kb Pdf) for birth statistics.

If you’d like to find out more about conceptions statistics read Conception Statistics. For more information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to conception statistics see Conceptions Metadata (143.5 Kb Pdf) and Conceptions Quality and Methodology Information (131.5 Kb Pdf) document. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d like to hear them. Please email us at: vsob@ons.gsi.go.uk.

Notes

1 The European Union has been made up of 28 European countries (EU28) since July 2013.

2 The EU28 data was last updated on 10th February 2014 and extracted on 3rd October 2014.

Categories: Population, Births and Fertility, Live Births and Stillbirths
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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