Unmarried Men’s Contraceptive Use at Recent Sexual Intercourse, United States 2011-2015

August 31, 2017

Questions for Kimberly Daniels, Ph.D., Statistician and Lead Author of “Unmarried Men’s Contraceptive Use at Recent Sexual Intercourse, United States 2011-2015

Q: Why did you decide to examine contraceptive use among unmarried men?

KD: There were a number of motivations to conduct this study on contraceptive use among unmarried men. Most, but not all, of the reports published at NCHS on contraceptive use are based on data from women.  We wanted to use the data from men to showcase their first-hand reports, especially for the male methods (condoms, withdrawal and vasectomy). We wanted to focus on men who are not married given the role of contraception in preventing unintended pregnancies and the higher risk for unintended pregnancy among unmarried men. Also, about half of new sexually transmitted infections (STI) occur among people ages 15-24.  Most people in that age range are unmarried. Contraception is also used to help prevent STIs.

Q: What were the main findings of your report?

KD: There are a few key findings in this study on contraception.The report describes contraceptive method use at last recent sexual intercourse (within 3 months before the interview). A lot of the focus in this report is on describing variation in use of “male methods” of contraception, those that require action on the part of the male partner. These include condoms, withdrawal, and vasectomy. In 2011-2015, about 60% of unmarried men reported using a male method of contraception at last recent sexual intercourse. Higher percentages of men in younger age groups reported using any method of contraception, any male method of contraception, condoms, and withdrawal compared with older unmarried men.

We also presented differences based on marital or cohabiting status at the time of interview among unmarried men. The categories presented include currently cohabiting (regardless of former marital experience), formerly married, and never married. The percentage of men using any method, any male method, and the male condom was highest for never-married men, followed by formerly married, and currently cohabiting men. Use of withdrawal was higher among never-married men (23.0%) compared with formerly married (16.3%) and cohabiting (13.0%) men.

Q: Was there a finding in your new study that surprised you? If so, why?

KD: I was surprised to see the change over time in the use of withdrawal as a contraception method among unmarried men.  A lot of recent discussion about contraception focuses on contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices (referred to together as long-acting reversible contraception).  Withdrawal is not the focus of as much current research as those methods are. In this report, use of withdrawal at last recent sexual intercourse among unmarried men nearly doubled from 9.8% in 2002 to 18.8% in 2011-2015. That means that in the most recent data, about 1 in 5 unmarried men aged 15-44 reported using withdrawal at last sex.

Q: What differences did you see among race and ethnic groups, and between different ages?

KD: We observed a few differences among various groups of unmarried men and their use of contraception. One of the differences by both age and Hispanic origin and race was in the use of condoms at last recent sexual intercourse. Among unmarried men, higher percentages of younger men used condoms compared to older men. A higher percentage of non-Hispanic Black men (54.3%) used condoms at last sexual intercourse compared with non-Hispanic white (44.2%) and Hispanic (42.1%) men.

Q:  What is the take-home message of this report?

KD:  With this study, I think the take-home message is found right in its key findings. For example, I think some of the key findings from this report–the increase over roughly the last decade in the use of withdrawal among unmarried men and the higher use of condoms among younger and non-Hispanic, Black men–remind us why updating descriptions of contraceptive use is important. Certainly there is a substantial amount of ongoing research about condoms since they are used to help prevent STIs in addition to their use for contraception (including an NCHS report earlier this month also based on National Survey of Family Growth data, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr105.pdf). This report offers a new look at unmarried mens’ use of contraception, and provides updated descriptions of contraceptive use, mainly of male methods, based on first-hand reports from men.