Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use Among Teenagers Aged 15-19 in the United States, 2015-2017

Questions for Gladys Martinez, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use Among Teenagers Aged 15-19 in the United States, 2015-2017.”

Q: Why does NCHS conduct studies on sexual activity and contraception?

GM: We conduct studies on sexual activity and contraceptive use to better understand the risk for sexually transmitted diseases, birth and pregnancy rates, and differences between groups in the U.S. reproductive age population.

For this report they are crucial for understanding differences in the risk of teen pregnancy and to put into context recent declines in the U.S. teen birth rate.


Q: Can you summarize how the data varied by sex and age groups?

GM: There has been a decline in the percentage of male and female teens who ever had sex from 1988 to 2017.  But the percentage of male teens who ever had sex continues to decline in most recent time period 2011-2015 to 2015-2017, but has remained the same for female teens.

Male and female had similar:

  • cumulative probabilities of having had sex at each age in their teen years
  • relationship between age at first sex and contraceptive use: teens with younger ages at first sexual intercourse were less likely to use a method of contraception

Q: Was there a specific finding in the data that surprised you from this report?

GM: For the first time since we have been collecting these data, the cumulative probabilities of having had sex by each age in the teen years were similar for young males and females.

Ever use of implant is 15% which is an increase from 2011-2015 when it was only 3%.


Q: How did you obtain this data for this report?

GM: Data for this report are from the 2015-2017 National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative in-person survey of men and women aged 15-49 in the United States.


Q: Do you have older data that is comparable beyond 2002?

GM: Yes, we have been tracking these data since the 1970s and the earliest published NSFG report shows data from 1988.

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