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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

America's Teens

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Teens and Sexually Transmitted Infections:

  • About one million young people in the U.S. had chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis in 2006. That group accounted for nearly half of all incidents of STDs even though it only represented 25% of the sexually active population.

  • Chlamydia was the most commonly reported STD, followed by gonorrhea, and then syphilis.

  • After decreasing for more than 20 years, teen gonorrhea infection rates have leveled off while syphilis rates have been increasing.
Reported Chlamydia Cases in 2006:
  • 10-14 years old: girls - 12,364; boys - 1,238
  • 15-17 years old: girls - 130,569; boys - 23,665
  • 18-19 years old: girls - 162,823; boys - 35,155
  • 20-24 years old: girls - 284,763; boys - 93,035

  • A large proportion of STDs occurred in youths between ages 10 and 14 with about 18,000 diagnosed with a STD in 2006.

  • One-quarter of females ages 15-19 years and 45% of those ages 20-24 years had evidence of infection with human papilloma virus during 2003—2004.

Disparities in Race/Ethnicity and Geographic Residence:

  • Rates of all three STDS were highest among non-Hispanic blacks for all age groups.

  • Of females ages 15-19 reported having had sex, 40.4% were Hispanic, 46.4% were white (non-Hispanic) and 57.0% were black (non-Hispanic).

  • 22.9% black teen females reported having their first sexual experience before the age of 15 as compared to 11.6% of white females.

  • Hispanic females were more likely (35.2%) than white females (19.6%) and black females (19.0%) to report having had sex for the first time with a partner who was substantially older (4 or more years).

  • 40.8% of Hispanic teen females reported using no method of contraception during their last sexual experience, compared with 25.2% of black female teens and 10.3% of white female teens.

  • The majority (56.5%) of black females (ages 15-19) reported having used at least one family planning or medical service during the preceding 12 months, compared with 41.2% of Hispanic females and 49.4% of white females.

  • Among teen males (ages 15-19), 29.6% of black males reported having had four or more lifetime sexual partners, compared with 25.4% of Hispanic males and 12.1% of white males.

  • Reported use of condoms at first and most recent sexual experience was higher among black males ages 15-19 years (85.3% and 86.1%, respectively) than white males (68.6% and 69.2%, respectively) and Hispanic males (66.5% and 59.9%, respectively).

  • Of teens ages 15-19, Hispanic girls (132.8 per 1,000 population) and black girls (128 per 1,000 population) reported the highest pregnancy rates, compared to white girls (45.2 per 1,000 population).

  • Black mothers ages 15-19 were more likely to have a low or very low birth-weight infant than mothers in all other racial and ethnic populations. The proportion of preterm and very preterm births was also higher among black teen mothers than among other groups.

  • In 2006, black teens experienced the highest rates of AIDS and HIV/AIDS diagnoses and the highest rate for living with HIV/AIDS across all age groups (rates among black teens were 3-5 times higher than those among Hispanic teens, the population that had the second highest rates).

  • 129.5 per 100,000 black females ages 15-19 were living with HIV/AIDS compared with 40.2 per 100,000 Hispanic females of the same age.

  • In 2006, rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were highest among blacks for all age groups.

  • Among teens ages 15-19, the highest rates of chlamydia occurred among black females (8,858.1 cases per 100,000 population), compared with black males (2,195.4 cases per 100,000 population) and white females (1,374.9 cases per 100,000 population), with a similar pattern among teens in the same age group for gonorrhea.

  • For syphilis, black males ages 20-24 years experienced the highest rates (41.0 cases per 100,000 population), compared with black females (14.8 cases per 100,000 population) and white males (3.7 cases per 100,000 population) of the same age.

  • The southern states generally had the highest rates of negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including early pregnancies and STDs.

  • Birth rates for teens were lower among states in the north and northeast and higher among states in the south and southwest.

  • The highest rates of teens living with AIDS were clustered in the eastern and southern regions of the United States.

  • For all age groups, rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were higher in the south.

Trends Over Time for Currently Sexually Active High School Teens (between 1991-2007)

  • The percentage of teens who ever had sexual intercourse decreased from 54.1% in 1991 to 47.8% in 2007.

  • The percentage of teens who were currently sexually active (i.e., had sexual intercourse with at least one person during the 3 months before the survey) decreased from 37.5% in 1991 to 35.0% in 2007.

  • The percentage of teens who reported that either they or their partner had used birth control pills to prevent pregnancy before last sexual intercourse remained stable.

  • The percentage of teens who reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse increased from 46.2% in 1991 to 61.5% in 2007.

  • The percentage of teens who reported drinking alcohol or using drugs before last sexual intercourse remained stable.

  • A significant decrease was observed in the prevalence of sexual experience among black teens (from 81.5% in 1991 to 66.5% in 2007) and white teens (from 50.0% in 1991 to 43.7% in 2007). Among Hispanic teens, no significant change was detected.

Based on their report, the researchers concluded,

“The data presented in this report indicate that the sexual and reproductive health of America's young persons remains an important public health concern: a substantial number of youths are affected, disparities exist, and earlier progress appears to be slowing and perhaps reversing. These patterns exist for a range of health outcomes (i.e., sexual risk behavior, pregnancy and births, STDs, HIV/AIDS, and sexual violence), highlighting the magnitude of the threat to young persons' sexual and reproductive health.”


Gavin L, MacKay AP, Brown K, et al. “Sexual and Reproductive Health of Persons Aged 10-24 Years -- United States, 2002-2007.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 17 Jul 2009 58(SS-6);1-58.

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