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Sexual Intercourse Among High School Students

MMWR; 2017 Jan 5; Ethier, Kann, et al

The proportion of high school students in the US who had ever had sexual intercourse decreased significantly during 2005-2015, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report examined trends overall and by grade, race/ethnicity, and sex among US high school studies, using data from the 2005-2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRSB) and data from 29 states that conduct the YRBS and have weighted data. Among the findings:

  • During the study period there was a significant linear decrease in the prevalence of ever having had sexual intercourse among all students in grades 9–12 nationwide (46.8% to 41.2%).
  • This decrease was also observed among ninth and 10th grade students, among black students across all grades, and among Hispanic students in 3 grades.
  • A similar pattern by grade was observed in nearly half of the states with available data.

Citation:

Ethier KA, Kann L, McManus T. Sexual intercourse among high school students—29 states and United States overall, 2005–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018;66:1393–1397. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm665152a1.

Commentary:

Early age of starting sexual activity is associated with having more lifetime sexual partners, not using condoms, a higher rate of sexually transmitted infections (STI), and an increased likelihood of becoming pregnant during adolescence.1,2 Each of these consequences of early initiation of sexual activity has consequences of its own. The data reviewed above is good news, showing a lower proportion of teenagers engaging in sexual activity, and more teenagers delaying sexual activity until they can be better equipped both cognitively and emotionally to handle the decision and the consequences of that decision. What led to this decrease is not clear, but the fact that is has decreased is good news. — Neil Skolnik, MD

  1. Heywood W, Patrick K, Smith AM, Pitts MK. Associations between early first sexual intercourse and later sexual and reproductive outcomes: a systematic review of population-based data. Arch Sex Behav. 2015;44:531–69. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0374-3
  2. Kaestle CE, Halpern CT, Miller WC, Ford CA. Young age at first sexual intercourse and sexually transmitted infections in adolescents and young adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2005;161:774–80. doi:10.1093/aje/kwi095.

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