American Teens are Sex-Abstaining Teetotalers, Says Latest Data

By Published on June 11, 2016

The current generation of teenagers is the most sober and abstinent on record, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 181-page report analyzing data from September 2014 through December 2015 strongly suggests teenagers are shunning the vices of their predecessors.

The percentage of teens who claim they’re sexually active is at the lowest level since the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) was started in 1991 — 30.1 percent. Less than 42 percent of teens said they have lost their virginity.

The minority of teens having sex are likely to do so in the safest way possible. The percentage saying they didn’t use any contraception fell from 16.5 percent to 13.8 percent.

Drug use has also plummeted. The high school smoking rate has dropped to 10.8 percent— a fall of 17 percentage points since 1991. Hallucinogenics, ecstasy and heroin use are all down to the lowest levels on record at six percent, five percent, two percent respectively. Teens reporting they used marijuana in the last month was just under 22 percent — a small decline from the last two studies.

These findings would be in line with a study published May in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, showing teen marijuana use dropped 10 percent between 2002 and 2013, despite a string of states decriminalizing and legalizing weed, although the number of adults using has increased. 

“We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse,” said the study’s author Richard A. Grucza, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry. “We don’t know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization.”

According to the YRBSS, the percentage of teens experimenting with alcohol crashed from 81 percent in 1991 to 63 percent in 2015. The percentage regularly drinking suffered a similar fall from 50.8 percent to 32.8 percent.

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