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Fewer High Schoolers Are Having Sex Than 10 Years Ago


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockJan 5 2018, 18:47 UTC

Kris Schmidt/Shutterstock

The kids today are out of control! Well, actually, this latest generation of teenagers are pretty sensible.

The number of high school students who report having sex has dropped over the past 20 years, according to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released this week. The data comes from questionnaires given to tens of thousands of 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders across 29 states in the US.


The proportion of high school students that had sex in 1995 was 53 percent. This dropped to 47 percent in 2005 and 41 percent in 2015 (the latest statistic available).

In terms of health and wellbeing, this is some promising news. The CDC report notes that this trend also suggests that teens are engaging in less risky sexual behaviors, such as not using contraception, sleeping with multiple partners, etc. These high-risk behaviors among teens can lead to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and unplanned teen pregnancies.

"This is very positive and promising... Young people have learned that sexually transmitted infections are serious and are to be prevented," Dr Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, who was not involved with the study, told HealthDay.

“From my perspective, education about sexually transmitted infections and the challenges of having a baby when a teenager have had an impact on adolescent behavior,” he added.


The latest statistics also suggest that African-American teenagers were considerably more likely to have sex in high school compared to Hispanic or white teenagers. Nevertheless, the declines in sexual behavior over the past few decades were most prominent among African-American and Hispanic students.

As you might expect, the proportion of teenagers who reported having sex increased from the grade before. In 9th grade, 21 percent of females and 27 percent of males reported having sex. By 12th grade, that figure had risen to 57 percent and 59 percent, respectively. 

The changes, the CDC argues, was driven by greater awareness of sexual health being spread through social media, greater access to the Internet, better funding for education, and more federal spending to prevent STDs. There’s plenty of evidence to back up the claim that science-based and open-minded sex education is worthwhile. For one, a study in December 2017 found that teaching teenagers to abstain actually makes them considerably less likely to use condoms when they do eventually have sex. 

It's further confirmation of the golden (but often forgotten) rule: education works. 

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