PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesSexual health of young people
Sexual health of young people
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by the EPPI Centre Health Promotion and Public Health Reviews Facility

One review [1] found that:

  • Sexual health interventions which provide skills-based information and are delivered by same-age peer leaders in college settings have been shown to be more effective in bringing about positive changes in the knowledge and attitudes of university students (but not behaviour), as compared to adult health educators.
  • Peer delivered interventions in community settings which are developed in partnership with young people and take into consideration some of the wider social and cultural determinants of health can be successful in increasing the practice of safe sex amongst young people (aged over 18) at enhanced risk of adverse health outcomes.

A review relating to young people at risk of poor outcomes [2] found some evidence for the following, though not all the results of the research and reviews assessed was consistent or of high quality:

  • Knowledge of contraceptive methods can be associated with their appropriate use.
  • In relation to HIV sexual risk-reduction interventions, the more time spent in the intervention on active condom instruction and training, the higher the success rate – though overall results were modest. Interventions also reduced sexual frequency. Also, behavioural and social interventions on the sexual risk of HIV had a significant protective effect on sexually experienced adolescents in the US. More protective outcomes were found in interventions carried out in groups that were ethnically similar. Effective programmes included a sex education programme delivered to high school students, a course of AIDS and other information given to middle and high school students and HIV and AIDS education programmes delivered to runaways at a residential centre.
  • The evidence on abstinence programmes shows that they do not work.
  • School-based sex education, particularly linked to contraceptive services, community-based (e.g. family or youth centres) education, development and contraceptive services, youth development programmes and family outreach programmes were found to be effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • Peer-led intervention approaches - where information, advice and skills in decision making and resisting peer pressure are delivered by young people as mediators or facilitators are a promising approach in increasing contraceptive use.
  • Early childhood interventions and youth development programmes can reduce teenage pregnancy rates among young women but are less successful with young men.

See also Young men who have sex with men


1. A review of the effectiveness and appropriateness of peer-delivered health promotion interventions for young people  (1999)

2. Targeted youth support: Rapid Evidence Assessment of effective early interventions for youth at risk of future poor outcomes (2008)

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