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Sexual and Reproductive Health of U.S. Teens

CDC Morbidity and Mortality Teen Report


Updated June 22, 2011

Sexual and Reproductive Health of U.S. Teens

Teens and Sex

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Data released from the CDC July 17, 2009 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reveals that many young people (tweens, teens, and young adults) in the United States engage in risky sexual behavior and experience negative reproductive health outcomes. Although it seems that the majority of negative outcomes stemming from sexual activity have been declining for the past decade, the most recent data suggest that progress may, in fact, be slowing, and certain negative sexual health outcomes are increasing.

The CDC's Lorrie Gavin, PhD, and colleagues reported that increases in teenage births, AIDS infections and other sexually transmitted diseases all indicate that progress in teen sexual health may have slowed in recent years leading researchers to conclude that the sexual and reproductive health of America's teens remains an important public health concern.

The report is a summary of data for 2002-2007 concerning the sexual and reproductive health of young people from ages 10 to 24 from multiple sources, including the National Vital Statistics System, HIV/AIDS Reporting System, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Nationally Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, the National Survey of Family, and the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey Growth.

The following is a summary of this report on U.S. teens:

Sexual Behaviors:

  • Among teens between the ages of 15-17 years, 3o% of the females and 31.6% of the males reported having had sex, compared with those aged 18-19 years (70.6%, females; 64.7% males).

  • Among teenagers aged 15-19 years, 13.1% of females and 14.8% of males reported having had sex at age before 15 years old.

  • 58.7% of girls ages 15-19 reported that their first sex partners were 1 to 3 years older than they were, and 22.4% reported that their first partners were 4 or more years older than they were.
Other Sexual Experiences of Teens Ages 15-17:
  • 42% of girls and 44% of boys reported engaging in oral sex with an opposite-sex partner.

  • 5.6% of female teens and 8.1% of male teens indicated that they had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner.

  • 8.4% of girls and 3.9% of boys report having had a sexual experience with the same-sex partner.

  • Among never-married, sexually active teens between the ages of 15-19 years of age, 75.2% of females and 82.3% of males reported using a birth control method the first time they had sex. These methods included:

  • Teens (83.2% of females and 90.7% of males) were also more likely to have used contraception during their most recent intercourse:
    • Condoms – females, 54.3%; males, 70.7%
    • Birth control pills – females, 34.2%; males, 31%
    • Withdrawal – females, 13%; males, 16.4%

  • For 15- to 19-year-old teens who had sex during the previous 4 weeks, 68.2% of males and 41% of females reported always using a condom whereas 26.5% of males and 42.5% reported never using a condom.

Sex Education:

  • 85.5% of female teens and 82.6% of male teens (ages 15-19) reported having received formal sex education before reaching age 18 that included how to say no to sex.

  • 69.9% of teen females and 66.2% of teen males reported receiving instruction on the various methods of birth control.

  • Among teens ages 18-19 years, 49.8% of females and 35.1% of males had talked with a parent before reaching age 18 years about birth control methods.

  • Approximately three fourths of teens ages 15-17 (74.6% of females and 71.5% of males) reported having talked to their parents about at least one of five sex education topics: how to say no to sex, contraceptive methods, where to get birth control, STDs, and/or how to use a condom.

Teen Pregnancy, Births and Abortions:

  • In 2004, approximately 2.4 million pregnancies occurred among U.S. girls under the age of 25.

  • 30% of these pregnancies (729,000) were experienced by teens 15-19 years and 16,000 girls between the ages 10-14 became pregnant.
Of the Total Number of Pregnancies in 2004:
  • Number of live births:
    • 10-14 years old: 6,396
    • 15-17 years old: 138,943
    • 18-19 years old: 296,493
    • 20-24 years old: 1,080,437

  • Number of induced abortions (rounded):
    • 10-14 years old: 7,000
    • 15-17 years old: 71,000
    • 18-19 years old: 128,000
    • 20-24 years old: 406,000

  • Plus, 341,000 pregnancies (total for all age groups) resulted in fetal losses (e.g., stillbirths or miscarriages).

  • Thus, more than one third of abortions occurred among teens ages 15-17 years and nearly two thirds among those aged 18-19 years. The number of abortions for females 20-24 years-old almost doubled the number for teens 15-19.

  • In 2006, among teens 15-19:
    • 57% (435,436) births occurred to teen mothers (and preliminary data indicate that this number increased to 445,045 in 2007)
    • 27% ended in induced abortion
    • 16% in fetal losses

  • Almost one third of the births occurred among girls 15-17.

  • 92% of births among 15-17 year-old teens and 81% among females 18-19 years of age were to unmarried, single mothers.

  • Teen pregnancies appeared to be unintended (unwanted or mistimed). Among teens ages 15-17, 88.0% of births during the preceding 5 years were the result of unintended pregnancies.

Prenatal Care and Smoking:

  • Girls under the age of 15 were more likely than teens ages 15-19 or young women ages 20-24 years to receive late or no prenatal care, to have a preterm or very preterm babies, and to have a low or very low birth-weight infants.

  • 15% of females 20-24 years and 15.1 % of 18-19 years smoked during their pregnancies.

  • Teens 15-17 years were three times more likely to smoke (10.3%) during pregnancy as youths ages 10-14 years (3.3%).

Teens and HIV/AIDS:

  • In 2006, about 22,000 teens and young adults ages 10-24 in 33 states were living with HIV or AIDS.

  • Those between the ages of 20-24 were the most likely to have received an AIDS diagnosis in 2006 (71% of females and 80% of males).

  • Among teens ages 10-17, more females than males are living with HIV/AIDS.

  • For those who are living with HIV/AIDS:
    • 2,480 are 10-14 years old
    • 2,281 are 15-17
    • 2,422 are 18-19
    • 14,707 are 20-24

  • The annual rate of AIDS diagnoses among boys ages 15-19 has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, from 1.3 cases per 100,000 in 1997 to 2.5 cases in 2006.

Next Page: STDs, Geography and Race Disparities, and Trends Over Time

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