CDC: Fewer teens are having sex

Welcome to the minority...

News from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (via the NY Time’s Science Times section): Teenagers in the U.S. who have had intercourse at least once are now in the minority.

In the study, 43% of unmarried teen girls and 42% of unmarried teen boys reported having had intercourse by age 19. Compare that to 2002, the last year the CDC published such a report, when the numbers were 51.1% and 60.4%, respectively.

Other highlights of the report:

  • The birth rate for girls 15-19 was 39/1,000, the lowest ever recorded in the United States.
  • Use of contraception with first intercourse increased by 3 percentage points for both girls and boys (to 78% for girls and 85% for boys).
  • The percentage of teenage girls who have had sex was the same for all ethnic groups. This is the first time this has been reported; the change is mainly due to fewer African-American girls reporting having had intercourse.

BUT (and yes, there is always a “but”)…

Before we go applauding ourselves for a public health job done well, consider these factoids:

  • The teen birth rate in Canada is less than half of ours – 14/1,000; Germany’s is 10/1,000, and Italy’s rate is less than one-fifth of the U.S. at 7/1,000
  • If 78% of teen girls used contraception with their first intercourse, then by definition 22% did not. That’s a lot of unprotected girls.
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea are more common in teen girls than in any other age group.
  • Syphilis rates, though still lower in teens than in other age groups, have increased every year since the early 2000s.

So…nice to see progress, but still a long way to go.

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