Sexual activity declined significantly for younger teenage girls and for teenage boys between 1995 and 2002, and teen contraceptive use improved in significant ways, according to a new study from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The study compares new findings from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth with the previous survey conducted in 1995.
The proportion of never-married females 15-17 years of age who had ever had sexual intercourse dropped significantly from 38 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2002. At age 18-19, 68 percent had had intercourse in 1995, compared with 69 percent in 2002. For male teens, the percent of those who were sexually experienced dropped significantly in both age groups: from 43 percent to 31 percent at age 15-17, and from 75 percent to 64 percent at age 18-19. These and other data suggest that teenagers are delaying sex until somewhat older ages.
There is much good news in these results, said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in a press release. More teenagers are avoiding or postponing sexual activity, which can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy or emotional and societal responsibilities for which they are not prepared.
At their first premarital intercourse, teens were most likely to choose condoms for birth control 66 percent reported using a condom when they became sexually active. Teens are more likely in recent years to use contraception when they begin having intercourse79 percent in 1999-2002, up from 61 percent in the 1980s. Teens were also more likely to have used contraception at their most recent intercourse in 2002 (71 percent in 1995, compared with 83 percent in 2002). These changes in sexual activity and contraceptive use are consistent with the downward trend in teen pregnancy and births over the past decade.
The National Survey of Family Growth is conducted periodically by CDCs National Center for Health Statistics to collect data on factors which influence the American family including data on marriage, divorce, and cohabitation; contraception; infertility; pregnancy outcomes and births. Data are collected in household interviews with a nationally representative sample of women (since 1982) and men (beginning in 2002) ages 15-44.
Another report from the survey was released on trends in contraceptive use among women 15-44 years of age. The leading methods of contraception in the United States in 2002 were the oral contraceptive pill (11.7 million women), female sterilization (10.3 million), the male condom (6.9 million), male sterilization (3.5 million), and the Depo-Provera injectable (2.0 million). Together, these five methods accounted for 90 percent of contraceptive users.
For young women, the leading method is the oral contraceptive pill; for women 35 and older, the leading method is female sterilization. Method choice varies sharply by such characteristics as education. For example, college-educated women are four times as likely to use the pill, four times as likely to rely on male sterilization, and one-fourth as likely to use female sterilization, as women who did not graduate from high school.
Nearly all women of reproductive age have used contraception: 98 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method. About 82 percent of women have used the oral contraceptive pill at some time in their lives; about 90 percent have had a partner use the male condom.