OBJECTIVE: The WHO describes violence as a global public health problem. In contrast to domestic violence, violence against youth has been little explored. Our aims were to investigate the prevalence and gender differences in relation to emotional, physical and sexual abuse among young men and women attending youth health centers in Sweden, the current adverse effects of the abuse and the perpetrators of the abuse. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Nationally representative youth health centers in Sweden. POPULATION AND METHODS: In total, 2,250 women and 920 men aged 15-23 years answered a validated questionnaire about emotional, physical and sexual abuse. RESULTS: A total of 33% (CI: 31-35) of the young women and 18% (CI: 16-21) of the young men had been exposed to emotional abuse during the past year. For physical abuse, 18% (CI: 17-20) of the women and 27% (CI: 24-30) of the men stated that they had been abused during the past year. The gender differences for sexual abuse were pronounced, with 14% (CI: 12-15) of the young women and 4.7% (CI: 3.3-6.0) of the men stating that they had been abused during the past 12 months. The young women reported more severe adverse effects from all types of abuse and were more often abused by a person close to them. CONCLUSIONS: The exposure to violence among young people is alarming and presents prominent gender differences, and should be taken into serious consideration as it is a matter of health, democracy and human rights.