Teens and Young Adults Engaging in Less Sexual Activity

Contemporary Sexuality, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Teens and Young Adults Engaging in Less Sexual Activity


Many adults believe adolescents and young adults are more sexually active than ever before. But a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that's not the case.

Between 2006 and 2008, more than 13,400 Americans between the ages of 15 and 44 participated in the study, which was titled "Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey for Family Growth [NSFG]." About 5,300 of those surveyed were between the ages of 15-24.

Among the findings:

* 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males between the ages of 15 and 24 report never having had sexual contact with another person. That's an increase from the 2002 NSFG when 22 percent of females and males reported never having had sexual contact.

* Rates of vaginal intercourse and oral sex also dropped between 2002 and 2006-2008. In 2002, 70 percent of females and 68 percent of males ages 15-24 had vaginal intercourse. In 20062008, only 65 percent of females and 63 percent of males ages 15-24 had vaginal intercourse. Oral sex rates fell from about 69 percent in 2002 (for both males and females ages 15-24) to 63 percent for females and 64 percent for males in 2006-2008.

* Rates of anal sex remained largely unchanged from the 2002 and 2006-2008 NSFG reports. About 20 percent of females and 22 percent of males ages 15-24 engaged in anal sex during both reporting periods.

Anjani Chandra, lead author of the report, described the decrease in sexual activity as statistically significant.

Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reacted positively to the report. "I don't want to be Pollyanna-ish and say that there's nothing but good news here, but by and large, the news is good," he says.

The study also asked about sexual attraction. Among people ages 15-24, about 13 percent of females and 4 percent of males engaged in same-sex behavior in 2006-2008. That compares to 12 percent of females and 5 percent of males reporting same-sex behavior in 2002.

Researchers changed the way they phrased the sexual attractiveness question in the 20062008 survey. The words "gay," "lesbian" and "straight" were added to the most recent survey. For example, female participants were asked:

"People are different in their sexual attraction to other people. Which best describes your feelings? Are you ...

- Only attracted to males

- Mostly attracted to males

- Equally attracted to males and females

- Most attracted to females

- Only attracted to females

- Not sure"

"Do you think of yourself as . …

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