The results of a representative international comparative study covering 42 European countries by the ELKH Centre for Social Sciences show that Europeans’ perception of artificial insemination is not influenced by religion or the GDP of their country, but is strongly affected by the age women, on average, become mothers for the first time.

An aging European society faces a number of societal challenges. The internationally prominent issue of having a child is also receiving attention in Hungary, where fertility is well below the 2.1 replacement rate required for the population to be maintained. Hungary is trying to encourage couples to start a family through a number of government measures. A recent government measure – Government Decree No.1011/2020 on the implementation of the National Human Reproduction Program (I.31.) – included artificial insemination in family policy and allocated more than HUF 4 billion to finance infertility treatment. Although many methods of artificial insemination, such as insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF), have been available in Hungary for more than three decades, so far there has been little research studying the topic of artificial insemination in a representative sample and in international comparison.

A representative, international comparative study by Ivett Szalma (Centre for Social Sciences) and Maja Djundeva (Erasmus University), which covered 42 European countries using multilevel regression, shows that an individual’s sociodemographic background has a significant impact on shaping their attitudes towards insemination and IVF. Younger women with higher income and those who rarely attend religious ceremonies are more likely to support artificial insemination than men, the elderly, those with lower education and lower incomes, as well as those who more frequently attend religious ceremonies. In addition, attitudes to the family also play an important role: those reluctant to accept new types of families, such as single-parent or rainbow families, are also more likely to reject artificial insemination.

Research has also shown that it is not only factors related to the individual that influence how people perceive artificial insemination, it may also be important where these people live. There is no difference in opinions on insemination and IVF along most national variables. The perception of the European population is not affected by the type of religion that prevails in a given society, the number of people who profess to be religious, the country’s GDP, and how the country regulates adoption by same-sex couples. At the same time, the average age at which women give birth to their first child in a given country has a significant effect: the later the age at which women become mothers, the more receptive the country’s population is to artificial insemination. This may be due to the fact that in countries where women are more likely to postpone having their first child, more women may need these procedures, which can also affect social attitudes. This is because the biological limits of having the first child cannot be changed, but social attitudes are flexible and can be shaped.

The researchers measured the variable studied on a scale of ten, where one means that artificial insemination should never be allowed and 10 means that it should always be permitted. Based on these, the lowest values were found in Moldova (3.51), Georgia (3.88), Armenia (4.2) and Albania (4.48) and the highest in Iceland (8.87), Sweden (8.00) and Denmark (8.00). In Hungary, the average of the answers to the question was 6.08, which puts the country in the middle of the scale in Europe. At the time the survey was conducted in Hungary, in 2008, the average age of having the first child was 27.2 years, compared to 23.1 years in Moldova and 29 years in Denmark.

Publication on this topic:

Ivett Szalma, Maja Djundeva (2020) What shapes public attitudes towards assisted reproduction technologies in Europe?
Demográfia, Vol 62 No 5 (2019).