Percentage of Teens Who Report Having Had Sex Remains Stable at About 50%, Condom Use Increases, CDC Survey Says
The percentage of U.S. teenagers in grades nine through 12 who reported having had sex remained stable between 2001 and 2003 at 45.6% and 46.7%, respectively, according to the CDC's 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, which was published in the May 21 issue of the agency's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 5/21). The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System monitors six categories of health risk behaviors among U.S. teens, including behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco use; alcohol and drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical activity. The report summarizes the results of a survey administered to teens in grades nine through 12 between February and December 2003 (Grunbaum et al., MMWR, 5/21). The report, which includes findings from 15,214 completed surveys, presents national data and results from 32 states and 18 large cities (CDC release, 5/20). YRBSS has conducted the anonymous survey every two years since 1991, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/21).
Gender Differences, Condom Use
The percentage of teenage girls who reported having had sex increased in all ethnic groups and in most grades, according to the survey, the Washington Times reports. Compared with results from the 2001 survey, the percentage of black teen girls who reported having had sex increased by 7.5 percentage points to 60.9% in 2003, and the percentage of white and Hispanic teen girls increased two percentage points to 43% and 46.4%, respectively, over the same time period. However, the percentage of teen boys who reported having had sex declined among whites and Hispanics and increased only among black teen boys, according to the survey. Among teen boys, sexual activity among whites fell 4.6 percentage points between 2001 and 2003 to 40.5%, and the rate among Hispanics dropped 3.8 percentage points to 56.8% over the same time period. The sexual activity rate among black teen boys increased five percentage points between 2001 and 2003 to 73.8%, according to the survey (Washington Times, 5/21). Although boys historically are more likely to have intercourse for the first time at a younger age than girls, there was a decline between 1991 and 2003 in the percentage of boys having sex before age 13, the Chicago Tribune reports. In 2003, 10.4% of male teens said they had started having sex before age 13, compared with 15.1% in 1991 (Graham/Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune, 5/21). Overall, the study found that teen condom use during last intercourse increased five percentage points between 2001 and 2003, with 63% of teens surveyed in 2003 reporting having used a condom during their last sexual encounter (Washington Times, 5/21). Since 1991, teen condom use during last intercourse has increased almost 17 percentage points, according to the survey (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 5/21). In addition, the percentage of teens who reported having had sex with more than four partners in their lifetime dropped from 19% in 1991 to 14% in 2003, the New York Times reports (O'Connor, New York Times, 5/21).
CDC Director Julie Gerberding said, "Too many young people still engage in activities that place them at risk for serious injury, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, and chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer," adding, "We need to continue to provide them with the information and skills that can help them make the right choices today so that they can live a long and healthy life" (CDC release, 5/20). Kristin Moore, president of the Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit research group Child Trends, said that the survey findings show that "[w]e can't just inoculate kids and they will avoid alcohol, sex and drugs. We really have to focus on this continuously" (Washington Times, 5/21). National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy spokesperson Bill Albert said that the reasons behind the survey results are "[l]ess sex, fewer partners, more contraceptive use" (Chicago Tribune, 5/21). Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States President and CEO Tamara Kreinin said, "The overall decline in sexual activity and increased condom use among high school students since 1991 is a healthy and positive trend, but we still have a long way to go," adding, "Parents, lawmakers, community leaders and educators must recommit themselves to giving young people what they want, need and deserve -- medically accurate, life-saving sexual health information, communication skills and the relationship skills to help them become sexually healthy adults" (SIECUS release, 5/20).