Teenagers in the United States have increased use of contraception, but sexual behavior has not changed significantly in the past few years, the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals.
The report presented national estimates of sexual activity, contraceptive use and births among 15- to 19-year-old males and females in the United States. The numbers were taken from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, as well as similar NSFGs conducted in 1988, 1995 and 2002. Additionally, the CDC report looked at data from the 1988 and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males, conducted by the Urban Institute.
The new CDC report showed a significant increase in the use of condoms among males ages 15-19 during their first sexual experience; the data show that 85 percent reported using a condom, up by 9 percentage points since 2002. The recent survey also revealed that among 15- to 19-year-old males, 16 percent were using dual methods of contraception during their first sexual experience. The new data suggests that young men are being more cautious during their first sexual encounters.
Also, never-married sexually active females ages 15-19 were more likely in 2010 to use dual methods of contraception, such as condoms combined with contraceptive pills and/or other hormonal methods (6 percent in 2010, as compared to 2 percent in 2002). Female teenagers were also using a wider array of hormonal methods of contraception than in previous years, including emergency contraception, the contraceptive patch and the contraceptive ring.
There has been a steady decline in sexual activity among adolescents in the past few years. The new CDC report showed 42.6 percent of never-married teenage females and 41.8 percent of teenage males reported ever having sex in 2010, down from 45.5 percent and 45.7 percent, respectively, in 2002. In 1988, 60 percent of teenage males and 51 percent of females reported ever having sex.
The decline in sexual activity, combined with the increased use of contraception has resulted in a decrease in teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
However, teenage pregnancies remain a cause for concern, as 41.9 percent of all teenage pregnancies in 2006 ended in birth, while 19.3 percent ended in abortion, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute. Sexually transmitted disease is also another concern, as young people aged 13-24 made up about 17 percent of all those who received a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in 2008, according to another Guttmacher report.
Christian leaders have long expressed concern over problems resulting from teenage pregnancies and STDs. Unprotected sex leads to higher risk of unwanted pregnancy, as well as a higher risk of contracting an STD. The encouraging thing though, is unprotected sex is now decreasing.
The 2006-2010 NSFG showed that teens cited religion and moral values as the top reasons for abstaining from sexual activity. Between 2006 and 2010, 41 percent of females and 31 percent of males said their abstinence was based on religion or morals. The other two most likely reasons for abstinence were fear of pregnancy (17.6 percent of females, 12.6 percent of males) and not finding the right person (18.7 percent female, 29.4 male).
The same NSFG showed from 2006-2010, the most commonly-used contraceptive method among females ages 15-19 was condoms, with 95.9 percent of young females reporting they used the method of birth control. These were followed by other methods like withdrawal, (57.3 percent), and the pill (55.6 percent).
The recent data for the CDC report were collected through in-person interviews of the household population of males and females aged 15-44 in the United States, between July 2006 and June 2010. Interviews were conducted with 22.682 men and women, including 4,662 teenagers. The response rate was 77 percent.
For a link to the full CDC report, click here: www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf
Gabrielle Devenish contributed to this report.