Special Analysis: Understanding Data on Adolescents and Youth

Empowering young people with the tools they need to thrive is central to achieving both FP2020 goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The youth population comprises a large proportion of the total number of women and men of reproductive age in the 69 FP2020 focus countries. Population pyramids for FP2020’s focus countries in Africa and Asia, suggest the importance of the sexual and reproductive health of young people for national development as well as individual well-being. Youth aged 15–24 make up 41% of all men and women of reproductive age in FP2020 focus countries in Africa and 34% of those in Asia.

Understanding the lives of young people and their information and service needs is critical for developing effective health programs. Research on adolescents suggests that many patterns related to lifelong health behaviors around diet, exercise, alcohol, tobacco use, and sex are established during adolescence. The choices made and the patterns of behavior that young people develop today will affect the entire trajectory of their lives.

Many young people are not yet sexually active, while some have had sex and are only sporadically sexually active, some are currently sexually active and not yet married, and some are married and have begun childbearing. Each of these groups has different sexual and reproductive health needs, which necessitates a range of nuanced indicators. Unfortunately, the information to examine these nuances is often not available.