Sexual Health of Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States

In recent years, there has been a reduction in rates of teen pregnancy, births, and abortions.  Similarly there has been a drop off in the share of adolescents engaging in sexual activity. Despite this shift, recent data indicate that the rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among teens and young adults remain higher in the U.S. than in other developed nations and are considerably higher among certain racial and ethnic minorities and in different geographic regions in the nation. This fact sheet provides key data on sexual activity, contraceptive use, pregnancy, prevalence of STIs, and access to reproductive health services among teenagers and young adults in the U.S.

Sexual Activity

Contraception

Table 1: Types of contraceptives used by teens or by teen’s partner during last sexual intercourse, among teens ages 15-19
Type of contraceptive All teens, ages 15-19 White, Non-Hispanic Black, Non-Hispanic Hispanic Males Females
Condom 59.1% 57.1% 64.7% 58.3% 65.8% 53.1%
Birth Control Pills 19% 25.9% 8.2% 9.0% 15.1% 22.4%
IUD/Implant 1.6% 1.9% 1.1% 1.3% 1.3% 1.8%
Shot/Patch/Ring 4.7% 4.8% 5.7% 4.3% 3.7% 5.6%
NOTE: Totals do not round to 100% because some teens may use more than one method and other teens do not use any methods.
SOURCE: CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: US, 2013. MMWR, 63(-4). 2014.

Pregnancy

Figure 1: Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion Rates Among Teens Have Been Steadily Declining in the U.S.

Figure 2: Teen Birth Rates Have Been Declining for All Groups, but Racial and Ethnic Disparities Still Exist

Figure 3: Teen Birth Rates Highest in South Central States and Lowest in the Northeast

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS

Figure 4: Most New Cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections Occur in Youth and Young Adults

Access to Services

Figure 5: Many Young Women Place a High Value on Confidentiality but are Unaware Private Plans can Send Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) to Parents

Figure 6: Teens Primarily Get Information on Sexual and Reproductive Health from Family and Friends, Websites, or Health Care Providers

Endnotes
  1. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: US, 2013. MMWR, 63(-4). 2014.

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  2. Ibid.

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  3. Ibid.

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  4. Ibid.

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  5. Ibid.

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  6. Kaiser Family Foundation, Women and Health Care in the Early Years of the ACA: Key Findings from the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey, May 2014.

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  7. The White House, “1 is 2 Many: Take Action Against Abuse.”

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  8. CDC. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2011.

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  9. AP/MTV Digital Abuse Study, 2011 (http://www.athinline.org)

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  10. Kaiser Family Foundation, Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S., January 2014.

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  11. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey.

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  12. Ibid.

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  13. Ryan, S. “Discussions About Contraceptions or STDs with Partners Before First Sex” PSRH, 39(3):149–157, 2007.

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  14. CDC. Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth. 2011.

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  15. Shafii T. Association between condom use at sexual debut and subsequent sexual trajectories: A longitudinal study using biomarkers. AJPH, 97(6). 2007.

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  16. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: US, 2013. MMWR, 63(-4). 2014.

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  17. Ibid.

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  18. Ibid.

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  19. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey.

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  20. CDC. Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth. 2011.

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  21. ACOG, Committee on Adolescent Health Care: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Working Group, 2012.

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  22. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: US, 2013. MMWR, 63(-4). 2014.

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  23. In a June 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court limited the scope of the preventive services requirement and some employers may not need to abide by this requirement. For more information on preventive services now covered by the ACA, refer to the Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet “Preventive Services Covered by Private Health Plans under the Affordable Care Act,” and for more information on the Supreme Court ruling, refer to “Potential Supreme Court Decision: Who Will Bear the Coverage ‘Burdens?’”.

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  24. Secura, G.M., et al. (2010). The Contraceptive CHOICE Project: Reducing Barriers to Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 203(2): 115.e1-115.e7.

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  25. Guttmacher Institute “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity” May 2014.

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  26. Guttmacher Institute. Teen Pregnancy and Lessons Learned, 2002.

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  27. CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, “Births: Preliminary Data for 2013”, 63(2)2014.

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  28. CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, “Births: Final Data for 2012”, 62(9)2013.

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  29. The National Campaign.  Teen Childbearing in Rural America.  January 2013.

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  30. Finer, LB & Zolna, MR. Shifts in intended and unintended pregnancies in the United States, 2001-2008. American Journal of Public Health 104: S43-S48, 2014.

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  31. Ibid.

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  32. Guttmacher Inst. Characteristics of U.S. Abortion patients, 2008. May 2010.

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  33. Ibid.

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  34. CDC. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance. 2012.

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  35. CDC. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance. 2012.

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  36. CDC.HPV Vaccine Information for Clinicians- Fact Sheet. 2012.

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  37. For more information on preventive services now covered by the ACA, refer to the Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet Preventive Services Covered by Private Health Plans under the Affordable Care Act.

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  38. CDC. Reported STDs in the United States: 2012 National Data for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis. 2014.

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  39. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey.

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  40. Cunningham, S. “Relationships Between Perceived STD-Related Stigma STD-Related Shame and STD Screening Among a Household Sample of Adolescents” PSRH, 2009.

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  41. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey.

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  42. CDC. HIV/AIDS Surveillance in Adolescents and Young Adults,2012

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  43. Ibid.

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  44. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: US, 2013. MMWR, 63(-4). 2014.

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  45. MAC AIDS Fund, U.S. Teen Survey Headline Highlights, 2014.

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  46. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Urban Institute tabs of ASEC supplement to CPS, 2013.

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  47. Gallup. In U.S., Uninsured Rate Sinks to 13.4% in Second Quarter, 2014.

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  48. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey.

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  49. HHS Office of Population Affairs: Family Planning, Title X Family Planning.

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  50. Guttmacher Institute. “The Central Role of Medicaid in the Nation’s Family Planning Effort”,2012.

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  51. Guttmacher Institute. Minors’ access to contraceptive services. State Policies in Brief. 2013.

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  52. Guttmacher Institute. Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions. State Policies 2013.

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  53. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey.

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