June 2008 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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CDC Releases 2007 YRBSS, Shows Racial and Geographic Differences in Youth Sexual Health Behaviors

On June 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). The YRBSS monitors health risk behaviors among high school students, including sexual behaviors that may contribute to unintended pregnancies and STDs, among high school students. Over 14,000 high school students were surveyed across the country. The survey results reported:
  • 48% of students reported ever having had sexual intercourse (47% in 2005)
  • 7% of students reported having sex before age 13 (6% in 2005)
  • 15% of students reported having had sex with four or more sexual partners (14% in 2005)
  • 35% of students reported being currently sexually active, defined as having had sexual intercourse in the three months prior to the survey (34% in 2005)
  • 62% of sexually active students reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during the last sexual intercourse (63% in 2005)
  • 16% of sexually active students reported that they used birth control pills before the last sexual intercourse (18% in 2005)
  •  90 % of students reported having been taught about AIDS or HIV in school (88% in 2005)[i]
“What we are seeing in these results is a lack of any progress over the past two years,” said Martha Kempner, vice president for communications and information at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “And when it comes to the health of our young people, progress is everything.”
The 2007 YRBSS found differences in risk behavior among students in different ethnic groups.  Hispanic students especially have not seen significant progress in sexual health-related behaviors across the board since the start of the YRBSS survey in 1991.
Among the different racial and ethnic groups, Black students reported the highest number of students who ever had sexual intercourse (66.5%) in 2007, followed by Hispanic students (52.0%), and white students (43.7%). More Black students had four or more partners in their lifetime (27.6%) than Hispanic students (17.3%) and white students (11.5%).
In addition, certain regions and states show worse outcomes in terms of youth sexual health. Youth who first had sex before age 13 concentrated primarily in the South. In Mississippi, 13.3% of youth engaged in sexual intercourse before age 13, compared to 7% of youth nationally. South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Florida also had high numbers of youth engaging in sexual intercourse before age 13 (9.5%, 9.3%, 8.2%, and 8.3%, respectively).  Mississippi also ranks as the state with the highest number of students who have ever had sexual intercourse (59.5%) and who have had sex with four or more partners (22.5%).
“The YRBSS gives snapshots of what is going on among the country’s teens at particular points in time,” continued Kempner. “Together, these pictures show us that we seemed to be on the right track in the early 90s: teens were delaying sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and increasing condom use.  But, clearly, we have gotten off track and are failing our youth.  We need to redouble our efforts as a society to affect positive changes, especially for minority and underserved populations.”
The full YRBSS, including data on many other teen risk behaviors, can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm.

[i] Danice K. Eaton, et. al., “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007,” Surveillance Summaries, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 57, no. SS-4 (6 June 2008): 1-131, accessed 6 June 2008, http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm.