Decline in Teen Sex Over Past 25 Years, Less Than Half US Teenagers Sexually Active

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A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics has revealed that less than half of US teenagers today are sexually active, far fewer than in the late 1980s.

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These findings are based on survey data from 1,037 females and 1,088 males in the United States, spanning 1988 to 2013, called the National Survey of Family Growth. The survey offers a glimpse at national estimates of sexual activity, contraceptive use and childbearing among teenagers aged 15-19 years. The report said, "In 2011-2013, 44% of female teenagers and 47% of male teenagers aged 15-19 had experienced sexual intercourse. The percentage has declined significantly, by 14% for female and 22% for male teenagers, over the past 25 years." 

In 1988, 60% of teenage boys and 51% of teenage girls were sexually active. The lowest rates were seen in the 2006-2010 range for females, with 43% saying they had had sex at least once. For males, the lowest number was 46% in 2002. When the research team separated the data by age, they found that 15-year-olds were the least likely to have had sex (about 15%). 

The declining rates of sexually active youth coincides with previous research findings that suggests a big drop in the teen birth rate. In 2013, the teen birth rate was 27 per 1,000 people. This was less than a third of the historically highest rate in 1957, when it was 96 per 1,000. 

The report found that contraception use has stayed about the same in recent years, with condoms still being the most popular choice followed by withdrawal and oral contraceptives. The report said, "In 2011-2013, 79% of female teenagers and 84% of male teenagers used a method of contraception the first time they had sexual intercourse. The percentages have not changed over time. Emergency contraceptive use has climbed from 8% of girls in 2002 to 22% in 2011-2013."

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