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Women's Health

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Teen Sex Declines In U.S.

Fewer Teens Having Intercourse for 1st Time In Decades
WebMD Health News

Sept. 26, 2002 -- For the first time in decades, fewer teens are having sex.

A new CDC report gives a snapshot of risky behavior among teens between 1991 and 2001, taken from data representing ninth through 12th graders -- some 16,000 young people -- in all 50 states.

According to the report:

  • The number of high school students who had sexual intercourse -- whether with one partner or more -- decreased by 16% from 1991 to 2001.
  • Teens having multiple sex partners (defined as at least four in this study) decreased by 24%, especially among black and white males in the 11th and 12th grades.
  • Current sexual activity (defined as sexual activity in the last three months) declined 12% among 11th-grade students and 23% among black students.
  • Condom use among sexually active teens increased from 1991 to 1999, then leveled off by 2001.
  • However, alcohol or drug use before sex increased by 18%.

"Overall, fewer high school students are engaging in behaviors that might result in pregnancy and STDs, including HIV infection," writes study author N. Brener, PhD, of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health. "This decrease in health risk behaviors corresponds to a simultaneous decrease in gonorrhea, pregnancy, and birth rates among adolescents."

The improvement is likely due to the combined efforts of parents, families, schools, community organizations, healthcare providers, religious organizations, the media, and government agencies, Brener says.

One of the national health objectives for 2010, the study states, is to increase from 85% to 95% the number of teens in grade 9-12 who have never had sexual intercourse, have had sexual intercourse but not in the last three months, or used condoms the last time they had sexual intercourse. In 2001, 86% of students met these criteria.

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