Many more teenage girls are having sex under the age of consent Reuters

More than one in four young women first has sex below the age of 16 - a greater proportion than previous generations.

Data from the Health Survey for England show 27 percent of women aged 16 to 24 first had sex under the age of consent, compared with 22 percent of men of the same age.

Shadow health minister Diane Abbott said: "The rising numbers of girls having under-age sex is alarming.

"The underlying cause must be the 'pornification' of the culture and the increasing sexualisation of pre-adolescent girls.

The 2010 report suggests sexual behaviour has changed over the generations, with the proportion of women who first had sex below the age of 16 increasing over time.

Just 15 percent of men and 4 percent of women aged 55 to 69 said they first had sex under the age of 16, alongside 18 percent of men and 10 percent of women aged 45 to 54.

Among those aged 35 to 44 percent of men and 14 percent of women first had sex under 16.

Published by the NHS Information Centre, today's report found that one in 10 young people aged 16 to 24 have had 10 or more sexual partners.

But 26 percent of women and 32 percent of men aged 16 to 24 say they have never had sex.

Young people are more likely than those who are older to have been tested for the sexually-transmitted infection chlamydia (27 per cent of men and 44 percent of women aged 16 to 24 compared with 6 percent of men and 12 percent of women aged 45 to 54).

Across all age groups, men have typically had 9.3 female sexual partners in their lifetime, while women have slept with an average of 4.7 men.

Today's report also found that obesity among adults is at the highest level since 1993.

The survey included data from 8,420 adults and 5,692 children.

Mrs Abbott said: "Too many young girls are absorbing from the popular culture around them that they only have value as sex objects.

"Inevitably they act this notion out."