I went to a Catholic high school, where our sex ed consisted of a chapter in our religion textbook entitled, "There's No Condom for the Heart." Essentially, I was taught sex outside of marriage was bad, and we weren't supposed to have it. If we did, our hearts would get broken, and we'd probably also get diseases and go to hell. It seemed like that didn't sway my classmates away from having sex, though. By junior year, I felt like the only girl on the planet who still hadn't had sex. It felt like EVERYONE was having sex in high school back then... but how many high school students are having sex today? Well, a new study found that a lot less of them are than ever before.
I always assumed that, as time went on, young people would become more sexually active, but it turns out, the opposite has happened. The current study used data gathered by surveys given to high school students across the United States by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While close to half of high school students (47 percent) said they had engaged in sexual intercourse in 2005, that number dropped to only 41 percent of students saying they had been sexually active in 2015. The 2015 results are the most recent data available from the CDC, but there are a couple of reasons to believe that the decline in young people having sex has continued since then.
The first reason to take into account, according to Time, is that the rate of teens giving birth was the lowest it's been in 2017. A report by the CDC found that, within the past decade, teen birth rates had dropped a whopping 40 percent.
In fact, it's not just that teens haven't been giving birth; it's that they apparently haven't been getting pregnant as often in the first place as they have in the past. A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that teen pregnancy rates have been in a steady decline for about 20 years.
Now, let's talk about who is having less sex under the larger umbrella group of "teens" and "high school students." The current study found that fewer underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) reported having sex than upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) did. Within specific ethnic communities, the researchers also noted that less fewer black students in every grade reported being sexually active and fewer Hispanic students in three of the four high school grades reported being sexually active, according to Time. “[This] represent[s] positive changes among groups of students who have been determined in previous studies to be at higher risk for negative outcomes associated with early sexual initiation,” the CDC researchers said in their report.
Yes, obviously, having sex is a great time, and everyone should do it if and when they're ready, but the CDC explains that this decline in younger people having sex is actually a good thing. Time reports that teen sex often comes along with "having more sexual partners overall, not using condoms, teen pregnancy and having sexually transmitted infections at a young age." So, in that sense, it's probably a pretty great thing that teens today are holding off on having sex.
Some more great news about sexually active teens? The CDC found in one of its recent studies that more teens are choosing safer sex methods every year, like using birth control. So we can rest assured that even the teens who are having sex are at least not forgetting about the importance of contraception.
Although the researchers don't provide a reason why this drop in students having sex occurred, they note that technology, social media, and a greater focus on comprehensive sex ed may have all played a part. Of course, suggesting teens refrain from having sex at all isn't a solution for anything. Even if fewer teens are having sex in this day and age, it's absolutely crucial that we make sure students are properly educated before deciding to become sexually active.
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