Teen Health

Find out about the Italian attitude to teenagers’ health and pregnancy...


At 14 to 15 years of age, teens need to receive the diphtheria and tetanus booster vaccine (vaccino difto-tetanico-pertossico acellulare per adulti).

Alcohol, smoking and drug use

The legal drinking age in Italy is 16, though many young people drink wine with family meals at an earlier age. Wine is generally considered an essential part of a meal in Italy and a relaxed attitude is generally taken regarding teen drinking.

Though Italian teens drink as frequently as their European counterparts, they binge-drink much less than teens in Great Britain, Germany, Spain and Denmark. The 2003 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs survey found that 34 percent of Italian teens aged 15 to 16 binge-drink. This compares to 54 percent of teens in Great Britain, 22 percent of American teens, 57 percent of German teens and 28 percent of teens in France. It is believed these figures reflect that it is less socially acceptable to be drunk in Italy than in many other countries.

As many Italian teens smoke cigarettes as in other European countries, though the use of marijuana and hashish is higher than average in Italy.

Drug use by teens in Italy is generally at the same rate as in other European countries, though research suggests there may be a growing cocaine problem in the larger cities in Italy. 1.1 per cent of people between the ages of 15 and 34 admit to having used cocaine "at least once in the preceding month." Almost all cocaine use occurs in this age group.


Italy has reduced teenage birth rates by at least 75 percent in the last 30 years. In fact, Italy has a lower teen birthrate than every other nation (except South Korea) included in the 2001 UNICEF study, "Teenage Births in Wealthy Nations".

The poorer, southern areas of Italy have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and birth in the country. It is worth noting that more than 50 percent of teenage births in Italy are to married teenagers.

Abortion is legal in Italy. In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, females under 18 years of age must have the consent of a parent or guardian, or the decision may be deferred to a judge. The father of the fetus does not need to give his authorisation for the termination. Qualified physicians may choose to refuse to perform an abortion based on the grounds of the Conscience Clause.