3A.2. Sexual Health in Transition: Adolescent Lifestyles and Relationships in Contemporary Chiang Mai,
Arunrat Tangmunkongvorakul, Australian National University, and Chiang Mai University
Background/Significance: Thailand has undergone rapid social change in recent decades. With the influence of
modernization, several studies show evidence of increasing adolescent sexual activity. A combination of judgmental
social attitudes and increasing risk behaviour among the young has dangerous potential to accelerate the adverse
health consequences of sexual activity. Northern Thailand is centred on Chiang Mai. This city has become a major
site of in-migration for rural people, particularly young people, who move for education and work. Little research has
to date explored the lifestyles and sexual relations of young people in this area, and how individual adolescents of
different socio-economic status interpret modern lifestyle and relationship patterns.
Methodology: During 2006, a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used. The study population
was adolescents aged 17-20, both female and male, who have never married (culturally or legally). A wide range of
young people were included - those in and out of school, those employed and unemployed, and those who were
sexually experienced and not experienced. The sample comprises 1749 respondents (909 males and 840 females).
Sexual lifestyles and relationships were asked about using either a computer-assisted self-interview or a self-
administered paper questionnaire. Thirty respondents who completed questionnaires also participated in in-depth
interviews and 16 groups with different sexual/ gender identities and settings participated in focus group discussions.
Observation of young people’s lifestyles and relevant document/material were also used as supplementary data.
The fieldwork took 12 months in Chiang Mai city, Northern Thailand. Data from the questionnaire survey were
analysed using SPSS for Windows. Digitally recorded in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were
transcribed and analysed using ‘Atlas Ti’. Some content analysis, which imposes structure on information from
written, audio, or visual material provided by key informants, was also used.
Findings: Preliminary findings revealed that 79.9 % of respondents spent time regularly hanging out with friends
(mean 27.9 hours per week), and 62.4 % talked often on the phone (mean 11.4 hours per week). Most respondents
(84.0 %) owned a mobile phone themselves. Three quarters (76.4 %) had already watched an X-rated movie.
Moreover, 67.9 % had ever dated someone, and more than half (57.8 %) reported currently having a
girlfriend/boyfriend. Among those who had a current loved one, 63.3 % had sex with him/her, but only 18.8 % of these
used condoms consistently. One quarter (24.9 %) of those who had a current girlfriend/boyfriend also stated that they
lived with their loved one. Research results also found that adolescents from different educational backgrounds and
families of different socio-economic positions had significantly different lifestyles and sexual relationships.
Perceptions of love and intimate relationships were interpreted differently according to social strata and sexes. The
findings revealed that in the Thai context, social class differences still exist. In this study, the stratification into upper,
middle, and lower classes is mostly based on young people’s educational background and their family's financial
power. Notably, the lower social class young people were more likely to have poorer lifestyles and riskier sexual
Knowledge Contribution: The study presents a comprehensive understanding of contemporary young people’s
lifestyles and relationships that will provide constructive information to help plan and implement health policy, and to
improve sexual and reproductive health counselling, programmes, and services for young people in northern