The global number of youths has risen with a majority living in Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, rural youths often face difficult barriers to health, which include lack of sexual and reproductive health knowledge, information, and services. Risky behaviors are a threat to the health of many young people in Cambodia.
We studied a sample of 300 youths to describe sexual and reproductive health characteristics and risky behaviors in two rural provinces of Cambodia. Using a multi-staged sampling method, 30 villages were selected for interviewing. A peer-to-peer interviewing criterion was used that matched interviewer to interviewee based upon sex. Logistic regression models were used to compare risk between sexes and assess for associations between reproductive health variables, gender, youth attitudes, and risky youth social behaviors.
A majority (90 %) stated that a boy or girl should defer sex till marriage. A majority of youths (92 %) also reported that they may or definitely will seek sexual and reproductive health services in the future. About 5.4 % of youth had a prior sexual experience. Only 6.7 % of youth reported having they traveled to a local health center, hospital or clinic to seek healthcare for a reproductive health problem. Overall, 27 % reported alcohol use in prior 30 days. Relative to girls, boys were more likely to report alcohol use, going out late at night with friends, gambling, pornography use, gambling, and practicing risky behaviors with peers. Living with both parents and current school enrollment, had limited impact on rural youth's individual and social behaviors.
Although there are favorable findings compatible with traditional Cambodian values and beliefs, the youth in this study are challenged with alcohol use, practicing risky behaviors with peers, and low condom use. Findings have implications for practice and policy to prevent substance abuse and improve outcomes for substance use, sexual and reproductive health.