Dashboard on Youth Sexual & Reproductive Health: Central Asia

This data dashboard provides a regional snapshot of key indicators on youth sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and their implications for youth in the Central Asia region. To view the other regional dashboards, click on the links below:

Click any of the highlighted countries to see all indicators available for a more complete picture of youth SRH. To compare data across countries, visit the Country Comparison Database.

Please note that countries missing bars in the following charts did not collect or report for the specified indicator. See the sources used to compile the dashboard's data and definitions of all the indicators.


Approximately half of the population in Central Asia is under 25 years old. The Kyrgyz Republic has one of the youngest populations in the former Soviet Union. Youth populations are estimated to continue to grow significantly in countries such as Tajikistan, where fertility remains high. Growing youth populations create opportunities for national economic growth but also underscore the need for greater investment in their health. Investment in young people’s sexual and reproductive health in particular ensures that young people are not only protected from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but also that they have the number of children they desire, when and if they wish to have them. The ability to control one’s fertility increases individuals’ productive capacity and can lead to a decline in a country’s dependency ratio (number of working citizens compared to nonworking citizens). When the dependency ratio declines, in conjunction with adequate investments in youth education and economic opportunity, per capita income can increase — a phenomenon known as the demographic dividend.  

Population aged 10-19, Total (thousands) 2011

Population aged 10-19, Proportion of total population (%) 2011


In recent years, many Central Asian countries have seen advancements in education, and rates of transition from primary to secondary school are increasing. However, gender disparity related to education remains high in some Central Asian countries. In rural areas, increasing numbers of girls are dropping out of school as a result of early marriage. Poverty is linked to school dropout—many youth leave school in search of employment. However, crime, gangs, and religious extremism may also contribute to low school attendance, especially among boys.  

Education prepares young people for adulthood, improves their economic opportunity, and contributes to better health outcomes. Higher participation in education at a national level is associated with lower HIV prevalence among adolescents, fewer teenage births, and later sexual initiation among youth.

Transition from primary to secondary education

Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%) 2007-2011


Available data suggest that rates of child marriage are increasing in some Central Asian countries. Early marriage is more prevalent in rural areas and research shows that young women are marrying older men. Married girls are often forced into domestic labor, required to leave school, and are denied property rights. Early marriages in some Central Asian countries are also fueled by the cultural practice of bride kidnapping. In some regions of the Kyrgyz Republic as many as 80% of young women ages 16-25 have been victims of bride kidnapping.[i]

Poverty, along with harmful gender and cultural norms, can contribute to high rates of early marriage. Married adolescents are an extremely vulnerable and hard-to-reach population. Child marriage is linked to early childbearing (as many as 90% of adolescent pregnancies occur within marriage) and increased risk of HIV and other negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Many married adolescents experience domestic and sexual violence. Young women who marry older men also tend to have less power to negotiate safer sex and contraceptive use, which may have important implications for the incidence of abortion and STIs, including HIV.

[i] UNFPA. (2011). Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs and Access to Services for Vulnerable Groups in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Percent married by ages 15 and 18

Adolescents currently married / in union (%) 2002-2011


Though rates of adolescent pregnancy are declining in most Central Asian countries, some countries still have high, and increasing, rates. For example, Tajikistan has the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the region.[i] Girls who become pregnant often drop out of school, are sometimes forced into early marriage, and are likely to earn a lower income over their lifetime. Pregnancy also poses significant risks to young women’s health. Childbirth-related complications are the number one cause of death among girls ages 15–19. Pregnancy during adolescence also increases the risk of anemia, postpartum hemorrhage, prolonged obstructed labor, obstetric fistula, malnutrition, and mental health disorders, including depression. Furthermore, neonatal mortality rates are higher among mothers younger than 20 years old.

[i] UNFPA (2013) In Focus: Teenage Pregnancy in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Births by age 18 (%) 2007-2011

HIV Status

Rates of HIV in Central Asia have increased significantly in recent years. Since 2001, HIV prevalence in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia has increased by 250 percent,[i] making the region home to the world’s most rapidly expanding epidemic. The majority of new HIV cases are occurring among young people; between 2001 and 2011 the HIV prevalence among young people ages 15–24 increased by 20%[ii] And high-risk behaviors are a major driver of HIV infection in the region.  

Overall, young women are more vulnerable to HIV than their male peers. Biological factors, as well as a host of social factors—including cross-generational sex, transactional sex, gender-based violence, and limited ability to negotiate safer sex—increase girls’ vulnerability. Decreasing age of sexual initiation and increasing rates of multiple and concurrent partnerships are also major drivers of the HIV epidemic among youth.

HIV prevalence among young people