TORONTO - A new study on teen pregnancy finds the teen birth-abortion rate has fallen in Canada over a 10-year period, to a greater extent than in the United States and parts of the United Kingdom.

The rate declined almost 37 per cent in Canada from 1996 to 2006, compared to drops of 25 per cent in the U.S. and 4.75 per cent in England and Wales, and a rise of 19 per cent in Sweden.

The study, published Wednesday in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, said the teen birth-abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 was 27.9 in 2006.

Research co-ordinator Alexander McKay said teen pregnancy rates in the western world have been declining since the mid-1970s and the rate now stands at an all-time low in Canada.

In general, young women who are feeling optimistic about their futures tend to delay childbearing, he noted.

"And where we've really seen the most significant changes has been in increased rates of condom use, but also some increase in birth control pill use," he said in an interview.

"Overall where we're looking for the behavioural difference, it's that more sexually active young women are practising contraception compared to sexually active young women 10 or 15 years ago."

The journal is published by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada.

McKay said the findings are positive in terms of the socio-economic circumstances of young Canadian women, but our society should not become complacent.

"As soon as we start to see the socio-economic circumstances of young women in Canada deteriorate, we can expect to see a parallel increase in the teen pregnancy rate," he said.

"In order to keep the teen pregnancy rate low, we have to ensure that teenage women in Canada are receiving high-quality sexual health education and access to sexual and reproductive health services. If those decline, we will also be seeing an increase in teen pregnancy rates going forward."

McKay cautioned that not all teen pregnancies are necessarily a bad thing.

"In some ethno-cultural communities having a child at the age of 18 or 19 can be an expected and normal thing," he said.

"But what we do find in the bigger picture is that high rates of teen pregnancy can be quite clearly linked to socio-economic disadvantage among young women in particular communities. So for example, where you see high rates of inner-city poverty in the United States, that's clearly linked to higher rates of teen pregnancy."

In terms of a breakdown between births and abortion, the study said births accounted for 49.1 per cent of the birth-abortion rate in Canada in 2006; there were only slight fluctuations over the 10-year period.

The Canadian teen birth rate decreased from 22.1 per 1,000 in 1996 to 13.7 in 2006, while the teen abortion rate declined from 22.1 per 1,000 in 1996 to 14.2 in 2006.