Why Are More American Teens Abstaining From Sex? CDC Survey Reveals

A federal report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a decline in the rate of sexual activity among teenagers, particularly among boys in US.

Oshi Saxena
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In recent years, there has been a notable shift in the landscape of teen sexual activity and contraception usage in the USA, as highlighted by a federal report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Analyzing data from the National Survey of Family Growth spanning 2015 to 2019, this report sheds light on key trends, revealing intriguing insights into the dynamics of adolescent sexual behaviour.


The report indicates a decline in the prevalence of sexual activity among teenagers aged 15 to 19, with 38.7% of boys and 40.5% of girls engaging in heterosexual, vaginal sex before marriage. Notably, this marks a reduction from the figures reported in 2015. While girls' sexual activity remained relatively consistent over time, the percentage of sexually active boys witnessed a decline from 44% in 2015.

Decline in Teen Sexual Activity

  • In the 2015–2019 period, 37.4% of female teenagers and 34.2% of male teenagers engaged in sex in the past 12 months.
  • The percentage of sexually active teenagers in the past 3 months was 29.8% among females and 24.9% among males.

Contraception Usage on the Rise

Contrary to the decreasing trend in teen sexual activity, contraception usage has seen a noteworthy increase among young adults. The data reveals that nearly 4 out of 5 teenage girls reported using contraception during their first intimate heterosexual encounter. Furthermore, more than 90% of teenage boys utilized contraception during their initial sexual encounter with a female, a substantial increase from just over 80% in 2002.

Reasons Behind Abstinence


The report delves into the reasons why some teenagers abstain from sex:

Among Girls:

  • 32.5% cited religious or moral reasons.
  • 25.3% hadn't found the right person.
  • 15.9% didn't want to get pregnant.

Among Boys:

  • 35.3% hadn't found the right person.
  • 26.2% cited religious or moral reasons.
  • 11.1% didn't want to impregnate a female.

Notably, fear of sexually transmitted diseases was the least cited reason for abstinence.


Disparities by Race and Ethnicity

The report brings attention to disparities in sexual activity based on race and ethnicity. Black and Hispanic teenage boys reported higher rates of sexual activity compared to non-Hispanic white teenage boys. Similarly, differences were observed among teenage girls, with higher percentages of sexual activity among black and Hispanic individuals compared to their white counterparts.

  • Among females, Black teenagers showed a higher percentage (45.7%) of sexual activity compared to Hispanic (34.1%) and White (37.3%) teenagers.
  • Among males, Black (43.4%) and Hispanic (38.9%) teenagers exhibited higher percentages of sexual activity compared to White teenagers (29.5%).

Emergency Contraception Trends

A notable shift in contraceptive methods is evident, with an increase in the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) among teenage girls. The adoption of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants rose from 5.8% between 2011 and 2015 to 19.2% between 2015 and 2019. Conversely, boys witnessed a slight decline in condom use but showed increases in contraceptive pills, other hormonal methods, and dual methods.

  • From 2002 to 2015–2019, nearly all sexually experienced female teenagers (98.9%) used contraception.
  • Condoms (95.4%), withdrawal (64.8%), and the pills (52.0%) were the most commonly used methods among female teenagers.

One of the most notable revelations is the tripling of IUD usage among women aged 15 to 44, from 7.7% in 2010 to 21.4% in 2019. This surge in popularity may be attributed to the long-acting nature of IUDs, which provide a convenient and effective alternative to daily birth control pills. However, the survey also highlights instances of dissatisfaction leading to the discontinuation of IUD usage.

The CDC's survey identifies dissatisfaction with the device as a primary reason for discontinuing IUD use, cited by 32.8% of women. Common side effects, such as cramps and heavier periods associated with copper-based IUDs and abdominal pain linked to progestin-based IUDs, underscore the importance of informed decision-making when considering this form of contraception.


Contraception Trends Use Of Contraceptives American Teenagers