According to a new report (PDF) from the National Survey of Family Growth, part of the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) National Center for Health Statistics, American teenagers are still having as much sex as before. Heartening is the trend of improved usage of contraception or birth control says the report.
Sexual behaviors and activities of American teenagers has been looked at closely and followed over the years since 1988. Teenagers aged between 15 and 19 were surveyed to look at their sexual behaviors. This report that was released yesterday included the results from interviews of 4,134 adolescents between 2011 and 2015. Results showed that 55% of teenagers below the age of 18 were having sex.
The CDC survey is a yearly affair with face-to-face interviews with the teenagers at their homes and complete privacy is assured. These questions asked are same as those asked in 1988 and since then. They ask about teenage sexual activity as well as contraceptive use.
The results were compared to the numbers over the previous four years (2006 to 2010). For this present study period up to 2015, 42% of girls and 44% of boys reported to having sex at least once. This is a 1% decrease for females and a 2% increase for males compared to the previous data up to 2010. The change is too slight to be statistically significant. The change however was significant when compared with data in 1988 when more teenagers were having sex. 74% of girls and 51% of boys were found to have sex for the first time with a person they were in a relationship with. Sex with someone who they had just met was rare (2% of girls and 7% of boys). The reasons provided by teenagers who were not having sex included the idea being against their religion or moral values, not having found the right person and not wanting to become or get someone pregnant.
The only positive trend reported was the fact that in this latest study 99% of the girls were found to be using some or the other methods of contraception or birth control compared to 80% of girls who used birth control in 1988. Contraceptive use rose in comparison to the immediately previous report too with 86% girls using contraception between 2006 and 2010. Boys too improved in terms of contraception use with numbers being 84% in 1988 and 95% in 2011 to 2015. The rise from 2006-2010 period was 2% (93% compared to 95%). The three popular methods of contraception included use of condoms, withdrawal method and birth control pills. The use of these methods has been steady over the past years.
These results are to be taken in perspective of teenage pregnancy and births to teenage mothers. Since the1990’s, these numbers have steadily decreased. The lowest was recorded at 22.3 births per 1,000 teenager girls in 2015. According to lead author of this report Joyce Abma who is also a demographer at the CDC, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are public health issues and this report thus is a very important one. Both teenage sexual activity and contraceptive use is connected to these two big public health menaces she explained. So it becomes important to learn the trends and also understand the different prevalence in different subpopulations studied. This, she went on to say, would help policy makers device appropriate interventions for public health and also help physicians and practitioners counsel and advise accordingly.