Date: 11-25-2001

The East-West Wire is a news service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. For more information, contact Susan Kreifels at 808-944-7176 or

"Asian Youth at Risk" Conference Nov. 26-29 in Taipei

NOTE: Embargoed until 4:30 p.m. Monday Taipei time; 10:30 p.m. Sunday Honolulu time


Honolulu (Nov. 25) -- Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are seeing significant bulges in the number of young people, and social changes throughout Asia have greatly lengthened the period of adolescence.

With economic development leading to more use of dangerous substances like drugs and alcohol, information on risk-taking behavior among youth is especially important to policymakers in the region. Such shifts can bear serious health and social implications for countries.

"For planning purposes, each country must be aware of when its youth bulge will occur," said Peter Xenos, a population and health expert at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

These are some of the issues being discussed at a conference in Taipei this week sponsored by the East-West Center and open to the media. Researchers are reporting the results of the Asian Young Adult Reproductive Risk (AYARR) project, which examined the most important and reliable large-scale youth surveys taken in recent years in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

Xenos, conference co-organizer, said youth bulges due to lower birth and death rates can increase the number of young people from 17 percent to 24 percent of total populations. Additionally, delayed marriages and mass education throughout Asia have lengthened the period of adolescence (puberty to marriage) to eight or nine years or even longer.

This can pose serious health consequences. For example, condom use is surprisingly low among sexually active unmarried youth in Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan, said Minja Kim Choe, also a population and health expert at the East-West Center.

Choe's research also shows smoking among Asian teens is reaching epidemic proportions: 89 percent of young Indonesian men are smoking before they reach age 20, in Thailand 81 percent, and the Philippines 70 percent. In some countries women smokers are starting to catch up.

The numbers reflect estimates by the World Health Organization that deaths due to smoking will jump fourfold in Asia by the year 2030 as compared to a 50 percent increase in developed countries.

The percentage of males age 15-19 who engage in smoking, drinking or use of drugs in the Philippines totals 66 percent, in Thailand 73 percent, and Indonesia 76 percent. With economic development, even more youth will be able to afford potentially dangerous substances.

Risk-taking among Asian youth is a relatively new and controversial area of research. The conference in Taipei, titled "Asian Youth at Risk: Social, Health, and Policy Challenges," will bring together some 75 experts on adolescent behavior, policymakers, youth program managers and NGO and government representatives from Asia and the United States. This is the most important gathering in recent times to discuss critical and sensitive issues like adolescent sexuality and reproductive health.

More than a dozen Asian countries will report on risk-taking behavior among their youth stemming from new drugs, delayed marriages and greater freedom. Presentations will also deal with domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. In addition to the six AYARR project countries, presentations are expected from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Japan, Jordan, and the United States.

The conference host is the Bureau of Health Promotion, Department of Health, Taiwan. The AYARR research project was funded by USAID.

For conference information check Direct inquiries to Peter Xenos or Minja Kim Choe at (Xenos);; or

An overview of the project and research briefs can be found at

Project Overview: The Asian Young Adult Reproductive Risk Research (AYARR) Program, by Peter Xenos. The study provides a picture of youth behavior and the conditions of life among youth across a diverse set of Asian societies in order to identify risk-behaviors. While coordinated surveys have been conducted in other regions of the world, this is the first in Asia.

RESEARCH BRIEFS: 1. Selected Reproductive Health Indicators for Asian Youth: Tables

2. Sample Characteristics for the Six AYARR Surveys: Tables

3. Family Influences on the Lifestyle of Filipino Youth, by Grace Cruz, Elma Laguna, Corazon Raymundo: A growing number of Filipinos will not be reared by both parents; family interaction on sensitive issues such as sex is limited.

4. Liberal Views of Pre-marital Sex Now More Common Among Young Filipino Youth, by Midea Kabamalan: More young women approve of pre-marital sex.

5. Mass Media Exposure Among Youth in Urban Nepal, by Shyam Thapa, Vinod Mishra: Three-quarters of urban youth watch television, and most consider it an appropriate means of sex education, but most turn to their friends for information.

6. "Family" in the AYARR Survey Questionnaires: Reflection with Particular Reference to Hong Kong, by Ping-Keung Lui: The family still sits firmly among issues concerning youth and reproductive risk.

7. How Common is Early Sexual Onset and Sex Before Marriage? by Peter Xenos, Sulistinah Achmad, Hui-sheng Lin, Ping-Keung Luis, Chai Podhisita, Corazon Raymundo, Shyam Thapa: The levels of sexual experience before age 20 across the six AYARR countries are higher than those found in the Middle East but much lower than Latin America and Africa.

8. The Timing of Union Formation and Sexual Onset: Asian Evidence from Young Adult Reproductive Health Surveys. Pre-marital sex is much lower when youths stay in school, continue their education and have strong family connections.

9. Staying in School Postpones Sexual Debut, by Peter Xenos, Sulistinah Achmad, Hui-sheng Lin, Ping-Keung Luis, Chai Podhisita, Corazon Raymundo: Sexual experience is more common at any age for those who are not in school.

10. How Long is Asian Adolescence? by Peter Xenos, Sulistinah Achmad, Hui-sheng Lin, Ping-Keung Luis, Chai Podhisita, Corazon Raymundo, Shyam Thapa: The period of adolescence in Asia is significantly longer than in the past.

11. The Youth Tobacco Epidemic in Asia, by Minja Kim Choe, Ayke Soraya Kiting, Hui-Sheng Lin, Chai Podhisita, Corazon Raymundo, Shyam Thapa: Smoking among Asian teens is reaching epidemic proportions. In Indonesia, 89 percent of young men are smoking before they reach age 20, in Thailand 81 percent, and the Philippines 70 percent.

12. Sex and Marriage: How Closely Are They Related in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand? by Minja Kim Choe, Hui-sheng Lin, Chai Podhisita, Corazon Raymund: First sexual experiences begin earliest in Thailand and latest in Taiwan. Of 20- to 24-year-old males, 64 percent of Filipinos, 44 percent of Taiwanese, and 78 percent of Thais have experienced sex, but only a fraction of these are married.

13. Early Marriage and Childbearing in Indonesia and Nepal, by Minja Kim Choe, Shyam Thapa, Sulistinah Achma: Child marriages (before age 15) are common in Nepal, especially for women, but rare in Indonesia, even among rural women. Indonesia's low rate is probably due to near universal availability of primary education.

14. Schooling in the Adolescent Life Course: A Historic Intervention, by Peter Xenos: Profound changes have been unleashed among Asian youth due to the rise of mass education.

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