Summary of report content
Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire undertook research with young people about attitudes to sexual health, after hearing concerns about access to services. They spoke to 343 young people at workshops and via a survey.
Those who had accessed sexual health services had largely positive experiences, although there were some reports that they could be more accessible and less daunting. There was a majority awareness of where to go for advice for STIs, and also how to access free contraception, however there is room for improvement in young people’s awareness. Having more information about services, more access points, and earlier sexual health education were the areas that young people themselves thought could be improved.
In terms with wider attitudes towards sexual health, young people place a lot of trust in their friends for support; a group who may not have the factual answers to the questions about sexual activity or relationships. Young people would then ask parents and family members. Only 5% would look online.
It was clear from discussions that young people are exposed to stereotypes of the ideal body image. Young people feel social pressures to fit in, and questioned their own attractiveness and image compared to others. Despite feeling these pressures, many of the young people we spoke to were very aware of the many negative connotations of such pressures; citing the potential for eating disorders, body dysmorphia, steroid use, cosmetic surgery bullying, self-harming, and poor mental health as potential implications.
A substantial number of young people reported that they had been exposed to explicit pictures via text and online with 16% having sent an explicit picture, 41% having received one, and 55% knowing of someone else sending explicit content. Many young people said that sexting was an everyday thing. More education and awareness is needed in relation to pornography and healthy relationships. Young people felt that these discussions need to take place earlier and before the behaviours have become common place.
The report contains three recommendations about information resources, improving awareness of services and approach to sexual health education.
The report includes a response from the provider outlining the action they intend to take.