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Youth and Reproductive Health

The DHS surveys gather information about young people's age at first marriage, sexual debut, knowledge and use of contraception, and childbearing.

When young women marry or become sexually active at a young age, they risk having children before they are physically ready. Early marriage also adds to the number of children a woman will bear over her lifetime. Early and unplanned pregnancies put young woman at risk for reproductive health complications. The DHS also collects information about the time intervals between births. Together, all of these data provide a broad picture of the reproductive health needs of young women and men.

Youth and HIV/AIDS

Of the 33 million people living with HIV, about a quarter or 8 million, are young adults. An estimated 5,000 young people contract the virus every day. DHS surveys have collected extensive information about youth and their sexual behavior in more than 50 countries.

DHS interviewers ask young adults a variety of questions about their reproductive health, including their age at sexual debut, their contraceptive use, and their history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Early sexual activity exposes young women and men to diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea, which in turn make them more vulnerable to HIV.

Youth and Gender

In many countries, gender inequality remains a fact of life. DHS surveys offer an objective look at the balance of power between the sexes. Women and men frequently have dramatically different levels of education, employment, decision-making powers, and exposure to media.

The DHS data captures these key measures as well as knowledge, attitudes, and practices on a wide range of indicators. Additionally, in a selected number of countries, information is available on the experience of physical and sexual violence by women ages 15-24.

Youth and Education

The DHS Surveys have consistently shown a positive relationship between education and good health, safe practices to prevent HIV/AIDS, lower fertility, greater decision-making abilities, and many other benefits.

For example, data show a strong correlation between educating women and girls and higher maternal and child life expectancy as well as improved child and family health and nutrition. Educating a girl greatly reduces the chance that her child will die before the age of five. Girls and women who are educated are far more likely to immunize their children. Their children are less likely to be malnourished.

Country Profiles

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