From the 1980s to the 1990s rates of teenage pregnancy in Scotland increased more rapidly in areas of greater socioeconomic deprivation, finds a study in this week's BMJ. This finding has implications for allocating resources to achieve government targets in reducing pregnancy rates by 2010.
Research carried out at Glasgow University investigated the impact of socioeconomic deprivation on teenage pregnancy and the extent of local variation in Scotland, and how both had changed between the 1980s and 1990s.
Among teenagers aged less than 18, the annual pregnancy rate increased in more deprived areas, but there was no change, on average, among teenagers in more affluent areas. Among 18-19 year olds, the pregnancy rate decreased in more affluent areas and increased in more deprived areas.
The results also show that in the 1990s, socioeconomic deprivation explained more than half of the local variation in rates of teenage pregnancy, more than double the amount explained by deprivation in the 1980s.
Improved access to contraception and sex education may play important roles in helping to reduce unwanted teenage pregnancies, but the increased impact of deprivation in the 1990s suggests other social processes behind the patterns of change, concludes the author.
Alice McLeod, National Evaluation of Sure Start, Birkbeck College, London, UK