Teen sexual activity on the decline

May 12, 2020

A new report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics examines adolescent sexual activity and contraception use.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics suggests that the number of teenagers engaging in sexual activity is on the decline.1 The decline will help bring down the adolescent birth rate as well, which hit a peak in 1991.

Investigators found that in the 2015-2017 period, 42% of never-married female teenagers and 38% of never-married male teenagers had ever engaged in sexual intercourse. The number of female teenagers who had ever engaged in sexual intercourse was roughly the same rate (42%) as that seen in 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2015. Among male adolescents, there was significant decline seen in ever engaging in sexual intercourse, going from 46% in 2002 to 38% in 2015-2017. The greatest decline was seen between 2011-2015 (44%) and 2015-2017 (38%). The probabilities of having sexual intercourse for each age between 15 and 20 years was roughly the same between male and female adolescents/young adults aged 15 to 24 years.

Across all age groups in 2015-2017, 78% of females and 89% of males who had sexual intercourse before age 20 years used some form of contraception during their first experience with sexual intercourse. Females aged 15 to 16 years and 17 to 19 years were more likely to use contraception for their first experience than females aged 14 years and younger. A similar trend was seen among males.

Also noted for the years 2015-2017, among girls who had ever had sexual intercourse, 97% used a condom. The next most common methods were withdrawal (65%) and the contraceptive pill (53%). Nineteen percent used emergency contraception. Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) was used by 20% and implants made up the bulk of this category.


1.    Martinez GM, Abma JC. Sexual activity and contraceptive use among teenagers aged 15-19 in the United States, 2015–2017. NCHS Data Brief No. 366. Updated May 6, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db366-h.pdf