Pregnancies among under 18s in Derbyshire have slumped to a record low number, attributed to sexting and online chats replacing sexual relationships.
In 1998, when the Office for National Statistics first started compiling conception data by local authority, the pregnancy rate for young women aged between 15 and 17 was 42 per 1,000.
In the 12 months up to June 2017, that figure decreased by two-thirds to 14 per 1,000. That’s below the England average of 18, which is also a record low.
Katherine O’Brien, spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said cultural changes among young people, such as drinking less and spending more time socialising online, had caused under 18 pregnancy rates to plummet. She said: “Under 18 conception rates have been falling dramatically, particularly over the last decade, and they currently stand at record lows.
“Improvements in contraception and better sex education play a role, however we believe some societal shifts are also important factors.
“This is a generation who focus on their academic work much more, they are less likely to go out binge drinking and get involved in activities which can lead to sex. They are spending more time socialising online and less time in person with their partners.”
A BPAS report found that social, romantic and sexual relationships are increasingly experienced online. Sexting is seen as an alternative or a precursor to intercourse.
In total, 176 women under 18 became pregnant in Derbyshire in the year to June 2017.
The under 18 conception rate is the lowest in the East Midlands, where the average is 18 per 1,000 young women.
Ms O’Brien said that given cuts to sexual health services, pregnancy rates might have been expected to rise.
“Contraception services have been closing down or reducing their opening hours,” she explained.
“The sex education curriculum is not fit for purpose and a lot of youngsters are not getting the information about sex they need.
“This is why we think these life and societal factors have brought down the conception rate.”