Adolescents and SRHR: Recent Trends

In the ever-evolving landscape of global health, the past 25 years have witnessed significant transformations in the way society addresses the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of adolescents. A recent supplement in the Journal of Adolescent Health delves into the strides made, the hurdles faced, and the critical areas that demand attention for the decade ahead. This article aims to explore the positive trends, lingering challenges, and the path forward in advancing adolescent SRHR.

Positive Trends

Since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, adolescent sexuality and SRHR have gained prominence on the global agenda. With an additional 163 million adolescents reaching the age of 10-19, there are now 1.2 billion adolescents globally, each with diverse interests, needs, and concerns.

Encouragingly, there have been notable improvements in certain aspects of adolescent SRHR. Adolescents today tend to initiate sexual activity later; they are less likely to have sex with a partner who they are not married to or living with and more likely to use condoms when they are sexually active. Girls, in particular, exhibit positive trends with lower rates of early marriage, increased contraceptive use, and improved maternal health care access. Instances of female genital mutilation have decreased, recognized as a significant victory for human rights.

Slow Progress and Lingering Challenges

Despite commendable achievements, some key issues in adolescent SRHR still pose challenges. Menstruation remains a taboo topic in many societies, hindering open discussions and awareness. HIV-related deaths among adolescents show little improvement, and rates of sexually transmitted infections remain high. Alarming levels of physical and sexual intimate partner violence against adolescent girls persist. Additionally, there’s a lack of comprehensive data on unsafe abortions, posing potential risks to adolescents’ mortality and morbidity.

Gender Expectations and Inequalities

The supplement sheds light on persisting gender expectations that adolescents grapple with. Girls are often molded to be ‘modest and polite,’ while boys are encouraged to be ‘brave and independent.’ These expectations contribute to broader inequalities related to poverty, education, and employment, affecting adolescent health and well-being along gender lines. For instance, boys may be more prone to injuries, tobacco, and alcohol use, while girls face higher risks of intimate partner violence.

A Time-Bound Opportunity

The progress made over the last 25 years has elevated adolescent SRHR on global agendas, attracting increased investment and fostering a growing evidence base. Advocacy movements and governmental responses in select countries signal a positive shift. Looking forward, there is a unique opportunity to build on these advancements and empower all adolescents to achieve their full potential.

Strategic Considerations and Future Actions

We, as a society, must emphasize the need for comprehensive SRHR interventions tailored to adolescents, touching upon political and social support, funding, laws and policies, data and evidence, and scalable program implementation. Adolescents have the right to decide about their bodies and access services supporting those rights. The international agenda is increasingly attentive to these needs, signalling a promising era for adolescent SRHR.


As we navigate the complexities of adolescent SRHR in this century, acknowledging progress, confronting challenges, and taking strategic actions are imperative. Policymakers, healthcare professionals, and advocates must use collective efforts to ensure that every adolescent can exercise their right to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. By staying committed to these goals, the world can pave the way for a healthier and more equitable future for the adolescent population.


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