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Youth Statistics

 
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Youth Statistics
In this section, we offer selected statistics regarding U.S. youth, together with a few statistics focused on New York State. Links and endnotes will connect you to rich resources for further information. These pages are updated periodically.

Youth Statistics: Sexual Health

For background and context, see Understanding Sexual Development and Sexual Health. Sexual Identities Among High School Students

Sexual Orientation Overview

Awareness of romantic attraction typically begins prior to puberty [1]. Sexual attraction, behavior, and identity are not always aligned: a person primarily attracted to women may also have sexual contact with men and may or may not identify as gay, bisexual, or straight. This fluidity may be true of both adolescents and adults, and is reported more frequently by females [2, 3].

Among youth age 15-19, according to data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) [4]:

  • 11% of girls have had a same-sex partner in their lifetime, and 10% report having had a same-sex partner within the last year.
     
  • 5% of boys have had a same-sex partner in their lifetime, and 4% report having had a same-sex partner within the last year.
Among youth age 18-19 [4]:
  • 82% of women described themselves as attracted only to the opposite sex, 9% mostly to the opposite sex, 5% equally to both, 1% mostly to the same sex, and 1% only to the same sex, with 1% unsure.
     
  • 90% of women identified with the term "heterosexual or straight"; 2% "homosexual, gay, or lesbian"; and 6% "bisexual."
     
  • 92% of men described themselves as attracted only to the opposite sex, 6% mostly to the opposite sex, 1% mostly to the same sex, and 1% only to the same sex, with less than 1% unsure.
     
  • 97% of men identified with the term "heterosexual or straight"; nearly 2% "homosexual or gay"; and 1% "bisexual."
More recently, a large, anonymous survey of U.S. high school students (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that in 2017 [5]:
  • 85% of students identified with the term "heterosexual (straight)."
     
  • 2% identified as "gay" or "lesbian."
     
  • 8% identified as "bisexual."
     
  • 4% indicated they were not sure of their sexual identity.

Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender students experience harassment at school. In 2017, 70% of LGBTQ middle and high school students reported verbal harassment, 29% physical harassment, and 12% physical assault. Over half (57%) had heard homophobic remarks from teachers or other school staff [6]. Boys who are perceived to be gay or feminine are especially likely to face intense stigma [4]. The presence of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs within a school setting has been demonstrated to foster a safer environment, but 14% of LGBTQ students reported that schools would not allow them to form or promote such a club [2, 6].

Most lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth achieve health and well-being at levels similar to those achieved by heterosexual youth, though many face higher risks for violence and rejection [2].

Romantic Relationships and Sexual Experience

About one in three 13-year-olds has had a romantic relationship (not necessarily sexual), and the number naturally increases with age: By age 17, 70% report having had a special romantic relationship within the last 18 months [7]. Despite relatively high levels of conflict in adolescent romantic relationships, most youth report a sense of equal power, decision making, and emotional support within their relationships [7].

Interest in romantic and sexual contact typically begins around age 11-14 [8]. Adolescent sexual behaviors most often occur within romantic relationships [7], or with friends or ex-partners [9]. Sexual activity that goes beyond kissing and other "light" behaviors may be associated with depression and other problems in early adolescence when these behaviors are uncommon. However, these problems are not associated with sexual activity in late adolescence within the context of a romantic relationship [7].

Sexual Behaviors

Masturbation

Masturbation is common. One nationally representative study of teens age 14-17 found a lifetime prevalence of 80% for boys and 48% for girls [10].

Sexual Initiation

In one nationally representative study, "having sex" was defined as including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. With that inclusive definition, the researchers found the median age of sexual initiation to be 16 years for both males and females. By age 19, 75% of youth have had vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex [3].

Vaginal Intercourse / "Sexual Intercourse"

An analysis of the 2011-2015 NSFG found that among youth age 15-19, 42% of females and 44% of males have had heterosexual vaginal intercourse [11]. Most teens have sex the for the first time in the context of a romantic relationship, while 13% experience their first sex with friends and 2% with someone they just met [11]. In 2017, 40% of high school students reported having had "sexual intercourse" at some point in their lives (31% in New York State), and 29% were currently sexually active (had sexual intercourse at least once in the three months before taking the survey. Note that "sexual intercourse" is not defined in the survey.) [5]. Higher percentages are seen among students who identify as gay or lesbian (48%) or bisexual (48%) [5]. Asian students are less likely to have had intercourse (17%) or be currently sexually active (13%) [5]. In New York State, about one in five high school students (22%) were currently sexually active [5]. On average, youth in the U.S. first have sexual intercourse at age 17 [12], and most people (55% females and 55% males) have had penile-vaginal intercourse by age 18 [11]. Over 80% of adolescent women age 15-21 who report lesbian/bisexual identities or same-sex attractions report having had sex with men [4].

Heterosexual Oral Sex [4]

  • Among young women age 15-19, 45% have had oral sex with a male.
  • Among young men age 15-19, 48% have had oral sex with a female.

Anal Sex

  • Among teens age 14-17, nearly 5% of males and 5.5% of females have had anal sex [10]
  • Among young women age 15-19, 11% have had anal sex with a male. [4]
  • Among young men age 15-19, 10% have had anal sex with a female. [4]

Same-Sex Oral or Anal Sex [4]

  • Among young women age 15-19, 11% have had "oral sex or any sexual experience" with a female.
     
  • Among young men age 15-19, 3% have had oral or anal sex with a male.

Condoms and Contraceptives

Among sexually active high school students, condom use at most recent sexual intercourse has declined slowly but steadily from the recent high of 63% in 2003 to 54% in 2017 [13]. Most teens use a condom or other form of contraception the first time they have sexual intercourse (81% of sexually experienced females, 84% of males) [11]. In 2017, 9% of sexually active students reported using condoms together with another form of birth control [5].

According to the 2011-2015 NSFG, the most popular form of birth control among teen women age 15-19 is the condom (used at least once by 97% of sexually experienced females), followed by withdrawal (60%) and the pill (56%). Young women also indicated having at some point used the following contraceptive drugs or devices: injectables such as Depo-Provera (used by 17% of sexually experienced women age 15-19), fertility awareness methods (12%), emergency contraception (23%), the contraceptive patch (2%), the contraceptive ring (5%), the IUD (3%), and implants (3%) [11].

Use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) -- IUDs and implants -- has increased among teen women who use contraception, but remains low at 6% of youth age 15-19 [11] and 4% of sexually active high school students [5].

Access to Services

Among teen women age 15-17, 31% receive contraceptive services [14]. The proportion of teens receiving services has been stable, but the source has changed: While nearly half (47%) used publicly funded clinics in 2002, only about one in four used clinics in 2011-2015 [14]. Instead, teens are increasing relying on private physicians, reflecting either an increase in private insurance coverage or a greater willingness to use private insurance [14] Only 37% of school-based health centers offer contraceptives to students [12].

Risky Behaviors

Sexual exploration is a natural part of adolescent development. Certain behaviors, however, do increase risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or unwanted pregnancy. Early initiation of sexual intercourse, multiple sex partners, sex without a condom, and incorrect use of a condom increase the risk of poor outcomes. Male adolescents are more likely than females to be exposed to or engage in certain risky sexual behaviors.

For statistics on dating violence, see Youth Statistics: Health.

Early Initiation of Sexual Intercourse

First penile-vaginal intercourse at an early age -- often, though not always, defined by researchers as younger than 16 -- is less likely to be consensual, and less likely to involve contraception, than sexual initiation at later ages [15]. It is also a risk factor for teen pregnancy [15]. Having vaginal intercourse at an early age is associated with a greater number of sexual partners, having concurrent partners [15], and using alcohol and other drugs with sex [16].

Multiple Sex Partners

Sexually experienced youth age 14-19 are quite likely to report having had at least three lifetime sexual partners (when sex is defined broadly as including oral, anal, and vaginal sex); just under half of females (45%) and just over half of males (55%) have had three or more partners [3]. Among high school students, 12% of males and 8% of girls report having four or more sexual partners in their lifetime [5].

Condomless Sex and Condom Breakage/Slippage

Defective condoms are rare, but condoms do fail when users don't fully understand how to handle them correctly. Though more likely than adults to use condoms, adolescents are also more likely to experience condom failures [17]. (See "Condoms and Contraceptives" above for additional statistics on sex without a condom.) Although it carries an especially high level of risk for HIV and STDs, anal sex among adolescents is often unprotected [18] as is (lower risk) oral sex [19].

To give an example of condom problems, one (non-representative) study of a group of primarily African American girls age 14-17 found [20]:

  • Condoms were used in only one-third of incidents of vaginal intercourse.
     
  • Condoms were used in about half of incidents of anal sex.
     
  • Problems with condoms breaking or slipping were reported in about 10% of incidents of vaginal intercourse.
     
  • Problems with condoms were reported in about 55% of incidents of anal intercourse.
Studies of LGB youth and young men who have sex with men (YMSM) have found:
  • YMSM are less likely to use condoms during anal sex with a serious partner than with a casual partner [21].
     
  • YMSM are less likely to use condoms with older partners, though HIV is more prevalent among older MSM [21].
     
  • Half of sexual minority male teens (age 14-19) who are sexually active did not use a condom at last sex, and 44% had anal sex without a condom within the last six months [22].
     
  • Among high school students, sexually active students who identify as LGB are less likely than heterosexual students to have used a condom during last sexual intercourse [5].
For more information on sexual behaviors and risk, see Sexual Behaviors and Health in Adolescence.

Adolescent Pregnancy, Abortion, and Birth Rates

Adolescent pregnancies are largely, but not entirely, unplanned: 75% are unintended [12]. The unintended pregnancy rate among teens age 15-19 declined by 28% from 2008 to 2011 [23]. The highest rates of unintended pregnancy are among young adult women in their early twenties [23]. Women of color also experience disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy, but pregnancy rates among black and Hispanic teens are declining steeply [24]. Between 1990 and 2013, the pregnancy rate among women age 15-19 declined dramatically to a rate of 101 pregnancies per 1,000 sexually experienced teen women [24]. The rate more commonly cited includes all female teens, not just those who have had sex -- that rate fell to 43 per 1,000 in 2013, the lowest it has been in at least 80 years [24]. About 5% of all females in this age group became pregnant [24]. Among teens, 18-19 year old women have disproportionately high rates of pregnancy [24]. Teens who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual have higher rates of pregnancy involvement than heterosexual teens [2].

Most pregnancies among teens end in birth (60%), while 26% end in abortion and 14% in miscarriage (2011 data) [23]. The teen abortion rate has reached its lowest point since legalization [24] at just under 7 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-19 in 2015 [25]. While most women (including teens) who have abortions do so in the first trimester of pregnancy, teens are overrepresented among women who have abortions at 13 weeks or later [25].

Birth rates among teens have fallen steeply since 1991, and are now at historic lows for all age and racial/ethnic groups [26]. Between 1991 and 2016, birth rates declined 67% among teens age 15-19 (to 14 births per 1,000), with a 10% drop between 2015 and 2016 alone [26]. In 2015, 17% of births to teens were to teen women who had previously given birth [27].

Across New York State, the 2016 pregnancy rate was 13 per 1,000 teens age 15-17 and 45 per 1,000 teens age 18-19 [28]. In New York State outside of NYC, the rates are 10 (for 15-17 year olds) and 35 (for 18-19 year olds), while in NYC the corresponding rates are 19 and 64 [28]. The highest rate for the 18-19 year old age group across the state is in Jefferson County (92) [28]. In New York State in 2016, there were 7,977 births to women age 15-19. Most births in this group were to Latinas (3,375), followed by non-Hispanic white teens (2,384) [29]. In New York City, the birth rate for teens 15-19 is 15 per 1,000 [30]. About half (56%) of pregnancies to New York State teens age 15-19 ended in abortion in 2013 [24].

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV

Of the roughly 20 million new STD infections reported every year, half are found among young people (ages 15-24), although this age group makes up only 25% of people who are sexually active [31]. The most common STD is human papillomavirus, which is contracted at some point by nearly every sexually active person [32]. Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea among male and female teens (age 15-19) have been climbing since 2013 [33]. Primary and secondary syphilis rates have increased as well with this age group, though in 2017 there was a slight decrease in syphilis among teen women [33].

In 2017, while only 14% of youth age 13-19 were black, black youth accounted for approximately 61% of HIV diagnoses in their age group [34]. The same was true among young adults (age 20-24): while 15% of youth age 20-24 were black, black youth carried 50% of the burden of HIV diagnoses.

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at high risk. In 2017, among males age 13-19, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 94% of HIV diagnoses. Among females in the same age group, heterosexual contact accounted for 85% of diagnoses. Among teens with an HIV diagnosis, 85% are male and 15% are female [34].

Endnotes

[1]   McClintock, M. K., & Herdt, G. (1996). Rethinking puberty: The development of sexual attraction. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 5. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
homepage.univie.ac.at/Michael.Berger/lit/McClintock.pdf
 
[2]   Saewyc, E. M. (2011). Research on adolescent sexual orientation: Development, health disparities, stigma, and resilience. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 256-272. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00727.x
 
[3]   Liu, G., Hariri, S., Bradley, H., Gottlieb, S. L., Leichliter, J. S., & Markowitz, L. E. (2015). Trends and patterns of sexual behaviors among adolescents and adults aged 14 to 59 years, United States. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 42(1), 20-26.
doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000231
 
[4]   Chandra, A., Mosher, W. D., Copen, C., & Sionean, C. (2011). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth. National Health Statistics Reports, 36. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from
permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo21173/nhsr036.pdf
 
[5]   Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., et al. (2018, June 15). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2017. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 67(8), 1-114.
doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6708a1 For another way to access YRBS data, see the interactive database Youth Online at
nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Results.aspx

 
[6]   Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C., & Danischewski, D. J. (2018). The 2017 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation's schools.
glsen.org/article/2017-national-school-climate-survey-1
 
[7]   Collins, W. A., Welsh, D. R., & Furman, W. (2009). Adolescent romantic relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 631-652. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163459
 
[8]   Smiler, A. (2013). Young men's sexuality: What's typical? ACT for Youth.
actforyouth.net/resources/rf/rf_young-men_0913.pdf
actforyouth.net/resources/rf/rf_young-men_0913.cfm (formatted for screen readers)
 
[9]   Tolman, D. L. & McClelland, S. I. (2011). Normative sexuality development in adolescence: A decade in review, 2000-2009. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 242-255. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00726.x
 
[10]   Fortenberry, J. D., Schick, V., Herbenick, D., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Reece, M. (2010). Sexual behaviors and condom use at last vaginal intercourse: A national sample of adolescents ages 14 to 17 years [Abstract]. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7 Suppl 5, 305–314.
doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02018.x
 
[11]   Abma, J. C., &Martinez, G. M. (2017, June). Sexual activity and contraceptive use among teenagers in the United States, 2011-2015. National Health Statistics Reports. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr104.pdf
 
[12]   Guttmacher Institute. (2017, September). Adolescent sexual and reproductive health in the United States [Fact sheet]. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/american-teens-sexual-and-reproductive-
health

 
[13]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Trends in the prevalence of sexual behaviors and HIV testing, national YRBS: 1991-2017. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/2017_sexual_trend_yrbs.
pdf

 
[14]   Frost, J., & Lindberg, L. (2018). Receipt of contraceptive services among young women in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(2), S75.
doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.11.151
 
[15]   Heywood, W., Patrick, K., Smith, A. M. A., & Pitts, M. K. (2015). Associations between early first sexual intercourse and later sexual and reproductive outcomes: A systematic review of population-based data. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 531-569. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0374-3
 
[16]   Schantz, K. (2012). Substance Use and Sexual Risk Taking in Adolescence. ACT for Youth.
actforyouth.net/resources/rf/rf_substance_0712.pdf
actforyouth.net/resources/rf/rf_substance_0712.cfm (formatted for screen readers)
 
[17]   Schantz, K. (2016). The case for condom education. ACT for Youth.
actforyouth.net/resources/pm/pm_condom_0316.pdf
actforyouth.net/resources/pm/pm_condom_0316.cfm (formatted for screen readers)
 
[18]   Dake, J. A., Price, J. H., McKinney, M., & Ward, B. (2010). Midwestern rural adolescents' anal intercourse experience. Journal of Rural Health, 27(2). doi:10.1111/j.1748-0361.2010.00330.x
 
[19]   Halpern-Felsher, B., Cornell, J., Kropp, R., & Tschann, J. (2005). Oral versus vaginal sex among adolescents: Perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. Pediatrics, 115(4), 845-851. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2108
 
[20]   Hensel, D. J., Selby, S., Tanner, A. E., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2016). A daily diary analysis of condom breakage and slippage during vaginal sex or anal sex among adolescent women. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 43(9), 531–536.
doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000487
 
[21]   Newcomb, M. E., & Mustanski, B. (2016). Developmental change in the effects of sexual partner and relationship characteristics on sexual risk behavior in young men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior, 20(6), 1284–1294.
doi.org/10.1007/s10461-015-1046-6
 
[22]   Valencia, R., Wang, L. Y., Dunville, R., Sharma, A., Sanchez, T., & Rosenberg, E. (2018). Sexual risk behaviors in adolescent sexual minority males: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 39(6), 619–645.
doi.org/10.1007/s10935-018-0525-8
 
[23]   Finer, L. B., & Zolna, M. R. (2016). Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011. New England Journal of Medicine, 374. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa1506575
 
[24]   Kost, K., Maddow-Zimet, I., & Arpaia, A. (2017, September). Pregnancies, births and abortions among adolescents and young women in the United States, 2013: National and state trends by age, race and ethnicity. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
guttmacher.org/report/us-adolescent-pregnancy-trends-2013
 
[25]   Jatlaoui, T. C., Boutot, M. E., Mandel, M. G., Whiteman, M. K., Ti, A., Petersen, E., & Pazol, K. (2018). Abortion surveillance - United States, 2015. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 67(13), 1–45. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/ss/ss6713a1.htm?s_cid=ss6713a1_w
 
[26]   Power to Decide. (n.d.). National & state data. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
powertodecide.org/what-we-do/information/national-state-data/nati
onal

 
[27]   Dee, D. L., Pazol, K., Cox, S., et al. (2017, April 28). Trends in repeat births and use of postpartum contraception among teens - United States, 2004–2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 66. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6616a3.htm?s_cid=mm6616a3_e
 
[28]   New York State Department of Health. (n.d.). Table 27: Total pregnancy rate by age and resident county New York State 2016 exclusive of NYC - 2015. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
health.ny.gov/statistics/vital_statistics/2016/table27.htm
 
[29]   New York State Department of Health. (n.d.). Table 6a: Live births by race/ethnicity, birthweight and mother's age, New York State 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
health.ny.gov/statistics/vital_statistics/2016/table06a.htm
 
[30]   Li, W., Zheng, P., Huynh, M., et al. (2018, July). Summary of vital statistics 2016: The City of New York. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/data/vital-statistics/vital-statistics-summ
ary.page

 
[31]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Sexually transmitted diseases: Adolescents and young adults. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/adolescents-youngadults.htm
 
[32]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Genital HPV infection - Fact sheet. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
 
[33]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, September 25).STDs in Adolescents and Young Adults - 2017 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/std/stats17/adolescents.htm
 
[34]   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). HIV surveillance in adolescents and young adults [Slide set]. Retrieved January 7, 2019, from
cdc.gov/hiv/library/slideSets/
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