Every now and then, a study is released whose conclusions are almost ludicrously obvious. Research confirming that better-camouflaged eggs are less likely to be eaten by opportunistic predators, for example – or perhaps the paper that concluded that high-quality colonoscopies are better than far cheaper ones.
Another of these studies has just cropped up, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Looking at the sexual activity and behaviors of teenagers (aged 15-19) in the US between 2011 and 2015, it notes that teenage pregnancy rates are at an all-time low, at around 22.3 per 1,000 females. Back in 1991, this rate was 62 per 1,000.
At the same time, female teenagers’ use of contraceptives during their first time having sex increased from 75 percent in 2002 to 81 percent by 2015. Male teenagers’ use of a condom during their first sex also increased from 71 percent to 77 percent by 2015. It is unlikely that the drop in teenage pregnancies in the same time period are merely a coincidence.
The authors are at pains to point out that the rate of teenage pregnancies is still incredibly high compared to other developed countries. Back in 2011, France had a rate of 7 pregnancies per 1,000 female teenagers, and Germany’s was as low as 5 per 1,000.
It’s also quite worrying that the use of emergency contraception in American female teenagers has jumped up from 8 percent in 2002 to 23 percent by 2015.
Still, the general trend is heading in the right direction – and access to contraceptives is the key factor driving this. If anything, this study has revealed that teenagers are becoming far more sensible when it comes to sexual activity than ever before.
Plenty of federal and state-level plans to educate and fund teenage pregnancy prevention programs have been launched as of late, and the CDC determined that as long as these programs existed, then cutting back on America’s startlingly high rate was a “winnable battle.”
However, attempts by the current federal government to defund groups like Planned Parenthood – one of the foremost providers of contraceptives in America – will only help to stall the efforts to get the teenage pregnancy rate down.
Teenage pregnancy rates aren't the only thing that will be affected by this uptick in contraceptive use, mind you. Sexually active teenagers have a far higher risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than adults. The total direct cost to the US via STIs among all ages is $15.6 billion, and teenagers and young adult Americans aged 15-24 account for almost half of the 20 million new STIs in the US every single year.
At the same time as reducing teenage pregnancy rates, the CDC suggests that this uptick in contraceptive use, at least when it comes to condoms, will surely help reduce the rate of teenage incidences of STIs over time.