High school students having less sex, government study finds
American high school students are having less sex than they were a decade ago, while those who are having sexual intercourse are doing so at a later age, according to a new government report.
The research, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows just over 41 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 reported having had sexual intercourse, down from almost 47 percent in 2005 and from 53 percent in 1995.
The most significant declines occurred among 9th and 10th grade students. Just under a quarter of 9th graders reported having sex, down 10 percentage points from a decade ago, while the number of 10th graders with sexual experience declined by 7 points.
“The decreases in sexual intercourse by grade suggest that fewer students are having sexual intercourse during the earlier years of high school,” authors Kathleen Ethier, Laura Kann and Timothy McManus wrote. They called those findings “especially encouraging.”
Declines were most significant among black and Hispanic high school students. Among African-Americans, fewer than half of high school students reported having intercourse, down from more than two-thirds a decade ago, while the percentage of Hispanics with sexual experience dropped 9 points.
Sexual activity rates among 11th and 12th graders, and among white students, were also down, though not by a statistically significant margin.
The CDC researchers said they could not identify specific causes for the decline, though they pointed to rapid changes in technology, the rise of social media and more federal spending to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy as possible explanations.
Those who have sexual intercourse at a younger age tend to be at higher risk for teen pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, earlier CDC research has found.
A more comprehensive look at national public health data shows the rates of most sexually transmitted infections falling precipitously over time — though rising in recent years.
Nearly twice as many people have been infected with chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease, than in 2000, according to the CDC’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance report in 2016. Gonorrhea and syphilis have also been on the rise in the last few years.
About half of the estimated 20 million new infections every year are contracted by people between the ages of 15 and 24.
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