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New Data: Fewer Teens Having Sex

Published: July 25, 2016

The most recent data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) survey indicate that there has been a dramatic decline in the percentage of high school students who have ever had sex in the last two years—from 47% in 2013 to 41% in 2015. Other measures of sexual activity and sexual risk taking also indicate that there has been a decline in overall sexual activity. In 2015, 30% of students reported having sex in the past three months; 12% of students reported that they had ever had sex with four or more partners; and 4% reported that they had ever had sex before age 13.

The YRBS is a nationally representative survey of high school students across thirty-three states , and it is clear that there are wide variations in sexual behavior by state. Looking at just the percentage of students who have ever had sex, values range from 30% in New York to 48% in Mississippi (see map). The data also indicates that the percentage of students who have ever had sex increases from 24% in 9th grade to 58% in 12th grade. Nearly half of 12th grade students (46%) reported that they have had sex in the past three months compared to less than a quarter (16%) of 9th grade students.

The survey also included questions about contraceptive method use. Overall, 14% of sexually active students reported not using a method to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sex.

More details from the 2015 YRBS are available online. You can also explore the data further with the interactive Youth Online tool.

Last Reviewed: January 8, 2019

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